Zada: Grinding up an Arcane Storm

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Crazy Monkey
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Post by Crazy Monkey » 2 years ago


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Zada, Grinding up an Arcane Storm






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Table of Contents






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Introduction




Hello, and thank you for reading this thread on Zada, Hedron Grinder. This deck has always been an exercise in reaching the largest possible damage number as quickly as possible. In those games where your playgroup knows that they are dead to excessive amounts of damage you may end up with all 4 players having their phones out to track the ever-increasing amount of creatures, power, and damage multipliers. I have chosen to sit out the next game so that I could spend over an hour at the side of the table calculating the attainable damage output while cackling to myself like a super villain. For the record, it was 1.6 x 10^18 specifically it was 1,603,247,750,000,000,000 because a player made the mistake of casting Primal Vigor.

Zada is one of those commanders that enables previously disregarded cards to be the entire engine of a deck. I am, of course, referring to the humble red cantrip and the ability to have Zada radiate it to multiply the card draw by the creature count. Red decks are typically able to put a large number of tokens onto the battlefield, so a cantrip can easily draw at least 6 cards in any Zada deck. Ancestral Recall is outperformed nearly every game by 10 cent commons.

The question in my deckbuilding process is usually not the standard "Ok, how do I win from here", but instead "This is good, How do I do more?" The obvious answer is to have more creatures, probably at least twice as many. So the next step is clearly to make copies of all our creatures with Twinflame. Then we can draw even more cards. Disregard that those new creatures won't last beyond this turn, and let's just make even more of them. What could go wrong?

Paying all that mana in a red deck means that we probably need some mana ritual effects. That's ok, we have cards to spare here so the card disadvantage is less impactful. Now, what's the most mana that can be made with massive creature count? You'd probably expect r per creature, from Battle Hymn. While efficient, that would be a significant underestimate.

Let me introduce you to the arcane mechanic: a parasitic mechanic from a block that is widely considered to be one of the lowest powered in modern Magic history. Splicing onto an arcane spell happens as the spell is cast, and it appends the spliced cards text to the spell being cast. If any of those cards targets a creature, the resulting spell will target a creature. That's right, the best mana ritual available here is actually Desperate Ritual being spliced onto an arcane spell that adds a target to generate rrr from each creature. What arcane spells target creatures so we can copy them? OH.

So now we're multiplying card draw and mana generation by our creature count, while we continuously double our creature count and stack damage-doubling replacement effects. How do I do more?. Well, we have a rather large storm count at this point so we can play some of that. Unfortunately, storm triggers only scale linearly so it's good but not as multiplicative. What other arcane spells could we splice a target onto? OH. Radiating that with Zada gives +2/+0 to each creature, for each creature. That increases our power by 2 times our creature count squared after accounting for all the copies.

That's probably enough. Or is it? Want to do it again?

It is only for my own pleasure in doing the math that my build excludes infinite combos or simpler win-conditions. In a similar vein, I have also chosen to skip having a backup win for Zada, protection options, and outs that aren't just combo-ing through it. I liken this deck to building moon base with a giant frickin' moon-laser made of glass, and I like the potential for failure during my masterstroke. I think it makes the deck more flavorfuly Red. I enjoyed the game where I drew my entire deck, spent all but 1 of my life, and sacrificed all my lands only to be blown out when I finally attacked. A more effective deck should probably run Chaos Warp to get rid of Arcane Laboratory or Flaring Pain to get past Teferi's Protection. Instead, I play ways to kill the my opponent's in response to their interaction; such as the logical method of having token copies of Mogg Fanatic with 6 instances of Overblaze on them to deal 64 damage in response.




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Commander Analysis/Why Play This Commander




Zada is unique among mono-red commanders at the intersection of tokens and instants/sorceries. These are some other red commanders that make either make or use a large number of creatures or draw a lot of cards.
  • Krenko, Mob Boss
    Krenko comes built in with a way to double the number of goblins in play, and can usually make more tokens than Zada until she storms off. Krenko is usually a tribal deck, because he only copies goblins or an outright combo deck with and enabler such as Thornbite Staff . Krenko decks usually have limited ways to draw cards, such as Skullclamp and win with either the combat step, Purphoros, God of the Forge, or Goblin Bombardment. I have a build here, and there is a more comprehensive combo Krenko post by @Jay13x here.
  • Márton Stromgald
    Marton's attack trigger effectively squares the damage of the attacking creatures. This usually plays in a similar aggressive style to Krenko, but trades the tribal limitations and combo potential for a more explosive single turn. As with krenko, there is not a card draw engine here.
  • Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion
    Neheb can behave as a draw engine each attack, and generates mana at the same time. This can enable winning via additional combat steps, such as Aggravated Assault. This is usually not a deck that focus on having a huge number of creatures, often opting for either a voltron route or a smaller number of more individually impactful creatures in play.
If you're not limited by the color identity, then Zada's storm-based playstyle is the most comparable to other color combinations. These are some commanders which use small cantrip spells to great effect. There are also some common storm commanders which offer alternative methods of card advantage.
  • Feather, the Redeemed: Returning cantrips and other spells for repeated use gives Feather a similar card list to build. Unfortunately, returning the spell at the end step makes this much less viable as a storm deck. If you like cantrips on every players turn, then @Rumpy5897 has a primer here. However, the effect of splice onto arcane is still viable with Feather and I have a shameless self-plug here.
  • Ink-Treader Nephilim: Ink-treader and the other nephilim are commonly house-ruled commanders because of their status in the storyline of the first Ravnica block. Ink-treader specifically has a very similar text box to Zada, with an important exclusion: Zada only triggers on our own spells and creatures. This means that Ink-treader is much more vulnerable to removal, but also able to use the opponent's creatures for their effects.
  • General Tazri: Do you want to play Zada, but don't like the mono-color restriction? Want to play Jeskai Ascendancy along with Bloom Tender? General Tazri can run up to five colors and tutors for Zada. Credit to Admiral Sultan on MTGsalvation, with decklist here. Also credit @Ulka for a modern, 4 Color take on the concept with decklist here.
  • Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain: All your artifacts are also cantrips. This usually uses cost reduction to chain together mana producing artifacts and often wins via Aetherflux Reservoir or Laboratory Maniac.
  • Elsha of the Infinite: While this is not direct card advantage, Elsha can be a potent combo/storm deck that often uses Sensei's Divining Top to enable their wins.
Based on the available other options, it's clear that Zada enables a game plan that few other commanders can replicate. If you're like me and you enjoy having deckbuilding limitations, a mono-red storm deck can virtually only be accomplished with Zada.
You might play Zada if:You might not enjoy Zada if:
You want a fast storm deck in mono-colorYou want a highly reactive deck
You enjoy drawing lots of cardsYou want each card to be more impactful
You want to 'go wide' with creaturesYou want multiple lines of play. No matter how you build Zada, it is almost invariably a 'one-trick' deck.
You want some variance in optimal sequencing for a storm deckYou want to maximize the odds of success. Adding more colors for tutoring should make the deck more consistent.
You enjoy deckbuilding optimization and seeing the impact of effect densityThis would be your only deck. Due to the 'one-trick' nature, games can feel repetitive for you and your opponents even with high variance.





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Deck History




As soon as Zada was spoiled in Battle for Zendikar, I was among the deckbrewers brainstorming and we quickly all converged on cantrips as a common gameplan. I had Zada proxied up before the pre-release and had a couple of weekends playing with my printout commander. This was in the days of the partial paris mulligan, where you could selectively keep some of your hand and shuffle only a part of the hand in. It took me approximately 1 game to decide that this was far too powerful, when keeping a single cantrip and token generator then digging for mana was enabling some ridiculous consistency. I think the official mulligan rules changed a year later.

The first day I played that proxied Zada, I got a turn to around 2 billion damage. I then proceeded to get blown out by Cyclonic Rift during my attack because I didn't have any ways to deal non-combat damage. I started looking for ways to avoid these blowouts, but I enjoyed the somewhat unpredictable nature of that game and strive to retain it, even as I make the deck more consistent. There's nothing quite like casting a Fiery Gambit into only 6 creatures and knowing that the only way you win this game is if one of them wins three flips, then hitting it on the last resolution on Zada herself and managing to go off.

In the early days, the deck was slower for budget reasons and because there just weren't enough good cantrips. I may have even played Balduvian Rage in the first draft, which is the worst available because it only can copy for attacking creatures and only draws on the next turn. In the past years, more efficient and powerful cantrips have been printed. Some have come and gone for me, such as Spark of Creativity but overall there has been a steady printing of expanded draw options. Some cards such as Rile opened up the concept of damaging our creatures for profit, which had been relegated to cards like Flare, and increased the value of cards that pumped toughness instead of just power. Going back through the options this added brought in more ways to double our creature count via Spawning Breath and eventually Make Mischief.

I don't remember if I was reminded of the arcane mechanic when I was doing a gatherer search or if it was when I was going through the bulk red cards at my LGS. It might have been when I saw Blazing Shoal in a modern deck? No matter where that plan came from, this mechanic from a disregarded block was exactly the type of wishful multi-card combination that I cram into my decks. The difference this time was that, even without tutoring this deck could assemble these combination on the back of sheer draw power.

I spent years going back and forth about whether it was better to create tokens off of instants/sorceries and cast triggers, such as Young Pyromancer and Goblinslide or just from creatures like Mogg War Marshal. There was a time when I played token sources such as Thatcher Revolt and Akroan Crusader. The printing of Reality Scramble decided this debate for me on the side of creatures with EtB triggers. I then went a bit further and started swapping out legendary creatures so that I could get even bigger payouts from Heat Shimmer.




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Current Decklist



Deck List by Function

Commander


Ramp - Colorless


Token Creation - Noncreatures


Pump Spells


Tutoring or Transforming


Noncombat Winconditions


Approximate Total Cost:





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Alternate Decklists




The key cards for a Zada deck are often cheap, both in mana and budget. As of Spring 2021, the base strategy of my main decklist can be maintained with cards only at or below $5/card. This only required 11 cuts, and 6 of those were mana ramp. Swapping Firestorm out could instead be Psychosis Crawler, Impact Tremors or Guttersnipe for a less risky win condition.
Budget Decklist - 5 dollars or less

Commander


Ramp - Colorless


Ramp - Red Mana


Pump Spells


No Tutoring, just Transforming


Noncombat Winconditions


Approximate Total Cost:





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Card Choice Discussion



Effect Density: a Discussion on Storm

Before I start going through the cards themselves, it is important to mention the overall deckbuilding requirements of this type of storm deck. Instead of just casting the same spells repeatedly, we have to maintain a loop of resource generation and need to have sufficiently high probability of drawing into the next loop.

Below is a table of the probability based on a hypergeometric distribution. The assumptions are that there are 88 cards in your library to represent turn 4, and you have 1 cantrip in hand. This is the lowest probability in the storm turn, and helps advise on what turn you start based on your own deck build. You can offset by around plus or minus 0.5% if your library is smaller or larger respectively. For example, offset these values by 0.5% less probable if you mulliganed to 6 and have a 89 card library.

The main focus on this table will be the probability of drawing a cantrip with one in your hand. The odds are based on the number of an effect remaining in your deck assuming that you have one in your hand, and are the probability of drawing at least one of the effect.
# Cantrip4 creatures5 creatures6 creatures7 creatures8 creatures
828.7%34.6%40.1%45.2%50.0%
932.2%38.1%44.6%50.0%54.9%
1035.6%42.5%48.7%54.3%59.4%
1138.8%46.1%52.6%58.4%63.5%
1242.0%49.6%56.3%62.1%67.3%
1345.0%52.8%59.7%65.6%70.7%
1447.9%55.9%62.8%68.7%73.8%
1550.7%58.9%65.8%71.7%76.6%
1653.3%61.7%68.6%74.3%79.1%
1755.9%64.3%71.2%76.8%81.4%
1858.3%66.8%73.6%79.1%83.4%


When we look at deckbuilding for more likely storm turns; each added cantrip in the decklist increases the probability of drawing it on the first cantrip by around 3%. However, as you play more creatures, this increase the probability of success more rapidly. On the average, 1 more creature with Zada represents 6-7% increased probability for drawing one of any given effect. This usually means that resolving an extra creature before your cantrip has significant rewards. Based on this approach, a card that creates 2 tokens is nearly 4 times more effective than adding another cantrip.

In my deck, I'm usually willing to try for a storm turn once I have minimum of 5 creatures, including Zada. This results in a worst case probability of 61% that I draw another cantrip. Adding in more creatures increases that rapidly, and I usually feel confident if I have 7 creatures at 74% minimum probability.

We can also use the same probabilities to explore the counts of any given effect in the deck. The odds of drawing a given effect will be the number of the effect in your decklist, minus then number you have already drawn. So, if I am playing 14 ritual/ramp effects and I've already drawn 3, then then the odds are based on 11 remaining in my deck in the table below.
# in Library4 creatures5 creatures6 creatures7 creatures8 creatures
928.7%34.6%40.1%45.2%50.0%
1032.2%38.1%44.6%50.0%54.9%
1135.6%42.5%48.7%54.3%59.4%
1238.8%46.1%52.6%58.4%63.5%
1342.0%49.6%56.3%62.1%67.3%
1445.0%52.8%59.7%65.6%70.7%
1547.9%55.9%62.8%68.7%73.8%
1650.7%58.9%65.8%71.7%76.6%
1753.3%61.7%68.6%74.3%79.1%
1855.9%64.3%71.2%76.8%81.4%
1958.3%66.8%73.6%79.1%83.4%

These tables help determine the required critical mass for a storm turn to succeed. If you'd like to examine specific probability distributions in your games, I use a spreadsheet that will calculate your probability to draw a given effect based based on the current board state. This is the link to the sheet. You can copy it, then modify the categories in deck construction to reflect your own list. Then go to the probability tab and set up the cards already drawn to show the probability of drawing at least one of the desired category.


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Cantrips

The backbone of any Zada, Hedron Grinder deck is the cantrips. These are rarely more than $1, so they are attainable for nearly every decklist, at any budget. These can be divided into several subcategories.
Cantrips
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Capturing Lightning: Instants that Draw
The best cantrips to play are instant speed and low mana cost. The low cost enables easier storm turns and the instant speed options are the most flexible. Specifically, instant speed cantrips can be used in response to a board wipe if you haven't reached a storm turn yet but have 3-4 creatures. They can also weave between scrytrips, if those are included. More on that later.
  • Crimson Wisps: The original 1 CMC instant speed cantrip.
  • Expedite: The second 1 CMC instant speed cantrip. I know this was probably printed specifically for Zada because they were in the same block/ Standard, and I'm thankful for it.
  • Fists of Flame: The best 2 CMC draw we have. This can enable non-storm wins by itself. It is a pain in the neck to keep track of for individual creatures, but fortunately the maximum of +90/+0 is less significant than the rounding error when we storm off.
  • Accelerate: This was the best 2 CMC draw available before Fists of flame. Giving haste enables attacks with the entire battlefield or activating Krenko, Mob Boss quickly.
  • Stun: This is still 2 CMC draw, but the secondary effect can be completely disregarded. Technically, this can prevent a blocker, but that text can be entirely disregarded here due to how we attack.
  • Boiling Blood: Instant speed draw, however spending 3 mana for a cantrip is quite high. This is a solid card, but the printing of new options make it less appealing.
Slightly Slower Lightning: Sorcery Draw
Sorcery speed cantrips keep mana costs low. The main trade off here is that they cannot refill your hand in response to a board wipe. In terms of some of the more complex lines of play, these also cannot be cast between copies of a scry effect such as Titan's Strength.
  • Renegade Tactics: 1 CMC draw effect with no downside or prerequisite.
  • Spark of Creativity: 1 CMC "draw" until the end of the turn. I would recommend including this in any deck that's not running the arcane package. The only drawback is the potential to exile arcane spells that you want to splice with, but this has been reduced with the inclusion of Underworld Breach. This is because being able to multi-cast those arcane spells from graveyard and result in the same effect as if they were drawn and could splice normally.
Ball Lightning: Learn based Draw
The Learn mechanic introduces a new keyword for cantrips. If you play with an optional sideboard then these can be a tutor for any Lesson spell and may be more valuable inclusions. In most commander games, learn will be a 'looting' effect; discarding to draw. It is important to keep in mind two things for learn: First, you never net increase cards, so you never want it to be your first cantrip. Second, the discard → draw is a may ability, so if you find the card(s) that you want, you can skip the remaining copies.
  • Academic Dispute: The first instance of the learn mechanic in this list. This is a solid 1 CMC cantrip, however you never really want it to be the first one that you cast.
  • Enthusiastic Study: This cantrip is the one nearest to being cut and swapped to boiling blood. 3 CMC for a somewhat lackluster cantrip isn't great. However, it can reasonably replace a pump spell and does increase toughness.
Without Checking the Grounding: Damage-Based Draw
These cantrips deal damage to our creatures. A deck that plays these should likely be playing pump effects which increase toughness instead of only power. An important note is that I have made almost all of my pump effects that modify toughness to be instants. Because each copy resolves independently and we chose the order that the copies go onto the stack, we can sequence to target tokens first. Then draw one at a time, and if you draw something like Infuriate you can immediately cast it and keep the remaining creatures alive. It might not be maximum damage but it saves Young Pyromancer from dying.
  • Rile: 1 CMC draw, but ideally is prefaced by some form of pump to survive it. If you want to avoid self damaging spells or don't have the arcane package, then this probably swaps for Spark of Creativity.
  • Blindblast and Zap: 3 CMC draw for damage. Only add these beyond what I play if you already added all the cantrips which cost 2 or less. Even then, it may be better to play Faithless Looting or Cathartic Reunion. These are just that inefficient with a drawback which requires deck space to support.
  • Fiery Gambit: Fiery gambit will be on several card categories because it can be a game-winning spell, a ritual, and/or a draw effect. This is technically random, but we can skew probability by having copies. Fiery gambit is functionally a cantrip and a ritual on the average when there are 8 creatures in play. Winning three flips is equivalent of succeeding in a 1:2 probability three times, equal to the product of those probabilities: 1:8. This means that fiery gambit should average a triple success for each 8 creatures, resulting in 9 cards. Casting this early can be a larger gamble if you have fewer than 8 creature, but it doubles up as a ritual by untapping lands.
    Note #1: 8 chances at a 1:8 chance is not a guarantee of success, that's not how statistics work. However, it is the most probable outcome on the bell curve.
    Note #2: Fiery gambit is radiated by Zada because targets are declared when you cast the spell. This means that before you've made any flips you have to chose the target creature that will be damaged upon a single success. Zada then triggers on being the target of the spell.
    Note #3: The spell targeting Zada always resolves last. If you have what you need for the next storm loop, just keep going until you fail if Zada wouldn't survive.
  • Fateful Showdown: This is a wheel effect that can be radiated by Zada. This is extremely high risk except as one of the first draw effects, but can allow for otherwise poor hands to be keepable. This can target you opponent of their creatures to keep the amount down to to a single wheel effect.
Checking Whether: Scrytrips
Rounding out the categories that make the cut in my deck are the "scrytrips". These replace actually drawing a card with scry triggers. The main purpose of these is to help ensure we find the card needed to keep the storm up. Additionally, the inclusion of scrytrip effects such as Titan's Strength gives us some options to maximize those scry 1 triggers. Zada only triggers once at cast, but it's actually putting all the copies of the spell onto the stack as independent objects. Technically, each resolves one-by-one with each player getting priority between each copy (this is usually shortcut for the sake of sanity). However, what this does allow is weaving scrytrips and cantrips. Responding to copy #4 out of 8 Titan's Strength with Expedite because the top card is Desperate Ritual will draw you the desired card (plus 7 more) while keeping the next 4 copied scrytrips on the stack to keep improving card selection on the next draw. This also works inverted: if you instead draw the scrytrip during a stack of cantrips, you can scry to find the desired card and then draw it next, followed by the subsequent cards. I play the scrytrips which overlap into my pump spells and give toughness, and there are more options beyond what are listed below that damage the creature. I've excluded those from this list because they're not really viable.
  • Titan's Strength: +3/+1 and scry 1 for 1 CMC helps survive the self-damaging effects while also increasing power for non-storm wins.
  • Samut's Sprint: +2/+1 and haste for 1 CMC pulls most of the same weight as Titan's strength while also enabling haste for a global attack or activating Krenko, Mob Boss.
  • Storm Strike: The last 1 CMC scrytrip. This could be considered if you're not playing self-damaging spells, but not effecting toughness prevents it from making my list.
  • Inordinate Rage: A 2 CMC scrytrip which provides +2 toughness for damage based spells. Well worth the extra mana compared to storm strike.
  • Portent of Betrayal: This was in the deck early on as a combined scrytrip and untap effect to reuse Krenko Mob Boss or mana dorks like Iron Myr. I also played it to steal an opposing Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite at the time.
Zoning Restrictions: Restricted Draw
There are some additional draw options which can be mana efficient but have situational targeting restrictions, either based on timing or requiring the creature to be in a specific state. They can be viable, but have limitations depending on the board state.
  • Chaotic Strike: A 2 cost cantrip, but it can only be cast during a portion of the combat step. This limitation can be especially significant if you have no other cantrip and most of your mana is floating from a ritual effect. Due to changing turn phases, that floating mana would empty from your pool, making this timing requirement potentially difficult to deal with and keep up a storm. Most of the rituals that I play are instants, so one technique when using this to storm is to declare your attack with minimal investment during the precombat main phase. Then, start your storm during the combat step. There are very few methods top increase the creature count during the combat step, so this usually results in finishing the storm in the second main phase.
  • Needle Drop: This is a 1 CMC draw, but has two significant drawbacks. First the target restriction means that the copies that would target undamaged creatures aren't even put onto the stack because they don't have legal targets. Second, even then it's basically Rile and has the same limitation due to self damaging.
Charging the Batteries: Delayed Draw
Finally, the last group of cantrips set up delayed draw effects at the next upkeep. These cards are not useful for storm decks due to the delayed payoff, but can be viable for slower decks that want to use Zada mostly to keep their hand full while they fill the battlefield and attack their opponents.
  • Panic: This is the lowest cost option among the delayed draw effects. If you have to add one, it should probably be this one. The timing restriction means that you can cast it during opponent's combat steps, even if there aren't any attacker declared.
  • Aleatory: This is the next best delayed draw, and has the same timing restriction at a higher CMC.
  • Balduvian Rage: I don't recommend considering this as draw, instead consider it as a pump spell. The attacking creature restriction means that you can only target your on creatures during your turn. This should only be considered in a slower, aggressive deck that does not intend to storm.
  • Flare: This is even worse than Blindblast and Zap. I don't recommend this card, but it is an option.


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Rituals and Ramp

We need to generate enough mana as we storm to pay for all those spells. These are divided between colorless mana ramp, which help resolve Zada more quickly, and r sources, which are more required for storm.
Mana Ramping and Rituals
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Subsidizing Expenses: Cost Reduction
Cost reduction is some of the most effective ramp we have due to the number of spells cast in a turn. The more spells that we reduce to costing r, the more efficient our nuclear powered steam engine becomes.
  • Ruby Medallion: Reduces the cost of every key card in this deck without drawback. Usually pays for itself that turn
  • Helm of Awakening: Reduces the cost of every spell, but this symmetric. Short of there being a second storm deck, we will use this more than any other deck and break that symmetry.
  • Cloud Key: Only reduces some of our costs, and has a higher upfront cost. This has too high a probability to not pay for itself that turn.
  • Semblance Anvil: Similar issue with cloud key due to the board card types, but is significantly more likely to pay for itself if it exiles a creature. The card disadvantage can be mitigated. However, based on our average CMC this is somewhat redundant with the other cost reduction, so it has not been included over a mana producing ramp.
Stepping on the Gas: Colorless Ramp
Colorless mana ramp is mostly used to ramp out Zada and the first creatures. With cost reduction these are often somewhat redundant, so I try not to include ones that don't pay for themselves.
  • Sol Ring: While I didn't run this in my initial build, the standard saying that a sol ring start is explosive true enough to add it. It is at least +1 mana during a storm turn, so it's not a dead draw.
  • Mana Crypt: This occupies the same role as sol ring at enabling explosive starts. This is by far the most expensive card here to be entirely replaceable. Only include this if budget is no object, and can be reasonably replaced with something like Iron Myr.
  • Thought Vessel and other 2 CMC manarocks: These do ramp out Zada, but are dead draws during the storm turn because they don't break even on mana production. I don't think that they are worth it if you plan on storm.
Ramps Generate Potential Energy: Repeatable r Sources
These man sources generate r either as ramp to Zada or a repeatable effect during storm. As of 2021, there may be enough stand-alone mana engines that rituals might not be necessary.
  • Chrome Mox: This can ramp out Zada, but it's not always a snap decision early on depending on your starting hand. This can replaced with a mountain for budget reasons.
  • Mox Diamond: An option for 0 CMC artifacts that generates r. I don't play this because my land count it so low that the loss of a land is more significant before storming.
  • Mox Opal: I don't run enough artifacts to enable this consistently before the storm turn.
  • Skirk Prospector: The majority of my tokens or token makers are goblins, so the ability to sacrifice creature to fuel the storm is usually cost effective. Including cost reduction usually means that we can trade a token to cast a spell. This keeps the storm change rolling. If your group allows un-cards, ask them if you can run Mons's Goblin Waiters.
  • Runaway Steam-Kin: This card is the most efficient mana engine in the deck, especially if copied via Twinflame. With only one steam-kin most spells will pay for themselves, especially after cost reduction. Every spell should cost r, and therefore pays for itself because three counters generate rrr. Two copies will net mana output from 1 CMC spells.
  • Iron Myr: While this doesn't immediately pay for itself, it can ramp out Zada and is another method to generate mana from copying effects. It can also be untapped via Kari Zev's Expertise for some incremental mana generation.
  • Arcane Signet and other 2 CMC mana rocks: These don't pay for themselves when storming unless Helm of Awakening is in play. These are viable for slower non-storm decks to ramp up, but don't make sense in my build because they would be dead draws during a storm turn.
  • Birgi, God of Storytelling: Adding r for every spell is effectively the same payoff as Runaway Steam-Kin and can pay for most spells. Birgi also triggers on cheap/free spells and can use Mana Crypt or Mogg Alarm to go mana positive. Adding the option of Harnfel, Horn of Bounty on the back side for card filtering is the mana is not needed is a solid alternative use.
  • Phyrexian Altar: A similar comparison to Skirk Prospector as Brightstone Ritual is to Battle Hymn. While more expensive to cast, this does provide the option to keep up the storm. Thermopod is a good budget option that's also a creature.
  • Sisters of the Flame: This is another copy of Iron Myr in decks that want it.
  • Treasonous Ogre: Life is a resource to spend. I'll drop 39 life for 13xr most games. Try not to go down to 4 or less before you must. Most people forget that Boros Charm can deal direct damage, and is common in decks that can run it.
  • Storm-Kiln Artist: Would you like to splice Battle Hymn onto all your targeting spells for free, while also being another Birgi or Runaway Steam-kin? Resolving The Storm-kiln artisan with a cantrip to follow it is a massive mana and card advantage.
  • Goldspan Dragon: The important text for this dragon is "becomes a target", so the trigger will occur even when the spell is a copy off of Zada. Has significant synergy with Dockside and Storm-kiln, and can generate a treasure without mana by attacking with haste. However, despite the effective cost being only 3 mana it's hard to pay the 5 mana investment in my build.
  • Gilded Lotus: This is just has too high a mana cost. In a slower deck that doesn't storm it may be a consideration.
Power takes Work: r Rituals
Ritual effects are one-shots that generate enough mana to keep the storm going. These are good in Zada because we generate so much card advantage that the drawback is virtually eliminate.
  • Mox Amber: doesn't ramp out Zada, but can enable a storm turn immediately, or just add mana turn a storm turn. It's often a one-time effect. This can replaced with a mountain for budget reasons.
  • Lotus Petal: This is a viable lower cost alternative to some of the other 0 CMC artifacts and is comparable in effect to Mox Amber, but I don't use it because it can only be a one shot effect.
  • Mox Tantalite and Lotus Bloom: these are only fast enough in one of two situations, either being suspended on turn 1 or being cast for free via Kari Zev's Expertise. I believe this is too situational.
  • Jeweled Lotus: This is likely a conspicuous exclusion considering the statement that I'd like the deck to be as powerful as possible within my build restrictions. I find that this Lotus underperforms even Lotus Petal in this deck because of one key item: Zada does very little without supporting creatures. Sure, with this card landing Zada on turn 1 is very simple. However, capitalizing on that one-shot investment is extremely difficult. Combine that with it being an entirely dead card during storm turns and I don't believe that it fits here. If you include it, don't us it to cast Zada early. Instead, use it to keep mana sources untapped when you cast Zada after several other creatures/tokens.
  • Brightstone Ritual: A similar effective payout to Skirk Prospector, but as a one time effect. This won't count all the non-goblins, but the low cost means it will virtually always pay for itself.
  • Infernal Plunge: A high payout one shot effect, but this is only useful if the storm turn is nearly stalled out on mana. This is not great at ramping out Zada because early creatures are rather important to start the draw engine.
  • Dockside Extortionist: A goblin which generates mana on an EtB, which can be used to ramp out an early Zada or to ritual during a storm turn. This is another ritual-type creature that adds mana output to copy spells such as Heat Shimmer.
  • Battle Hymn: This is comparable to Brightstone ritual, but not limited by creature types.
  • Desperate Ritual: This is the primary reason to include the arcane package. Virtually nothing can compete with the amount of mana this generates. It can be cast without splice if absolutely necessary, but the best play is usually to hold it back in hand if able for splicing onto target carriers.
  • Priest of Urabrask: At the worst, this creature pays for itself to increase the number of targets. If cast with a mana rock, it's mana fixing into r. With cost reduction, it's ramp. With copying effects, it's a ritual. This has always been an effective method to generate mana from copying effects.
  • Traitorous Greed : This is the second most mana which can be generated from a single card, at rr per creature. It has a similar up-front cost to spliced desperate ritual, and should be in any Zada build that includes rituals.
  • Inner Fire: This makes cards in hand generate mana. A full hand can easily generate 10 mana after 1 cantrip and over 30 mid-storm turn. This can pay for winning turns by itself.
  • Mana Geyser: A slower deck in a metagame without a lot of instant speed interaction can get serious ramp out of of mana geyser. It's significantly less effective in faster decks when there are fewer lands out and against more reactive decks which leave more lands untapped.
  • Kari Zev's Expertise: This is not a technically a ritual, but it plays like one via free casting. Cast this on Zada to cast all the low CMC spells in you hand. It is important to sequence them well for maximum efficiency. I usually start with sources of creatures, then cantrips. Note that this also untaps all your creatures, allowing for another activation of effects such as Krenko, Mob Boss.
  • Fiery Gambit: Untapping your lands in a triple success generates mana while drawing cards. The same odds as discussed before apply: this is probable to generate mana at or above 8 creatures due to the 1 in 8 odds of success. This potential ritual effect is why I reduced the number of effects that sacrifice my lands.


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Creating Tokens

Zada needs to have enough creatures in play in order generate the massive card advantage. As was noted in the effect density discussion, the effect of a single cantrip scales the fastest based on the number of creatures in play. The most card efficient method to increase the creature count is to make tokens. Fortunately, red has an extremely broad card pool with effects that create tokens.
Creating Creatures and Tokens
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Filling the Battlefield: Token Spells
Most of the most cost effective sources of tokens when focused on the number of tokens per mana spent are one shot instants and sorceries. These also include methods for doubling the current number of creatures and copying creatures to multiply their triggered abilities. I'm only including spells that create more than 1 token because the creature count is the focus.
  • Devastating Summons: With the exception of the spells that radiate to double our creature count, this is the most consistently mana efficient source of tokens in the game. This will create 2 tokens no matter how many lands are sacrificed, so never sacrifice more than 1.
  • Kuldotha Rebirth: This is an option for creating tokens if you play a large number of artifacts. I don't believe there are enough viable mana rocks and thopter/servo token sources for this to be consistent enough to make the cut.
  • Tempt with Vengeance: This is only more efficient than our other token options if an opponent takes the temping offer. No opponent that knows this deck will ever take that offer, which makes this only reasonable as backup option. This was removed from my list to add creatures that generate tokens as they enter the battlefield.
  • Dragon Fodder and Krenko's Command: These 2 CMC spells create 2 goblins. These are efficient sources of 2 tokens, and have goblin tribal benefits such as Brightstone Ritual and Krenko, Mob Boss. These are efficient enough that they should probably be played in any Zada deck.
  • Forbidden Friendship: The only other 2 CMC instant or sorcery that consistently creates 2 tokens. If your deck doesn't generate tokens from creatures or wants to reduce the mana curve, then this is a solid option over something like Thopter Engineer.
  • Firecat Blitz: Another X spell for tokens, with an even higher baseline mana cost. The tokens don't persist from a previous turn, so this is only useful on the storm turn. The inefficiency combined with turn restriction keeps this from making the cut.
  • Ghired's Belligerence: Cast this targeting only Zada at X=1 after resolving some copy effects on key creatures. Then either let the X/1 creatures die or sacrifice them for mana to Phyrexian Altar. This can let you transform all the creatures that die into the best possible creature in play. Do you already have a token copy of Chancellor of the Forge and 20 creatures? Now multiply your current number of creatures by 2^20. This is almost certainly the pathway to the maximum possible damage, but it's honesty a bit too situation to make my cut as a source of tokens. I don't know of any method that makes more tokens than repeated Belligerence via Underworld Breach with a Skirk Prospector, generating 2^N chancellor triggers each time.
  • Spawning Breath: Cast this on Zada to make an eldrazi spawn for each creature that you control. This is one of four spells which radiate off of Zada to double your current number of creatures. The tokens can generate mana if they need to, so this can cover some colorless mana costs as well. This method is one of the main reasons to include pump spells that increase toughness.
  • Twinflame: This the second of four spells which radiate off Zada to double you creatures. Even better, this is one of two which directly make copies of creatures. Having twice as many Young Pyromancers, Runaway Steam-Kins, and Siege-Gang Commanders will virtually always win the game. Additionally, playing creatures like Priest of Urabrask lets this spell pay for itself on the first cast and generates mana if re-cast or flashbacked. This is because it will copy for all creatures, including the tokens that previously copied. These effects should still probably be in a non-storm deck that goes to combat because having twice as many creatures is just that good for an alpha strike.
  • Heat Shimmer: This is the second copy of Twinflame with all the same upsides, and a slightly higher cost. This still pays for itself off of Priest of Urabrask.
  • Make Mischief: the fourth method of doubling our creature count via radiating off of Zada. Similar to Spawning Breath, this does damage our creatures but instead of generating mana these tokens deal damage on death. While 1 damage may not seem significant, the inclusion of the arcane package means that we can multiply that damage via Overblaze. It takes 6 instances of overblaze to increase these tokens to threatening 64 damage upon death and making each one lethal. This is enabled via a sacrifice outlet for instant speed responses to our opponents.
  • Hordeling Outburst: This is just as efficient as as Dragon Fodder in tokens per mana, and has all the same tribal synergies for mana and token generation.
  • Mogg Alarm: While this is less efficient than our other options if we cast it normally, the alternative cost makes this free on during our storm turn. This can be cast normally to set up on previous turns as well alt-cast with mana floating from the sacrificed lands to kick-start a storm turn.
  • Thatcher Revolt: This is the last 3 CMC spell which can meet parity with tokens:cost. It can't be used to set up ahead of the storm turn, so this does not make the cut.
  • Molten Birth: This doesn't meet parity on token generation, but it can create 4 tokens by itself 50% of time by returning for a second cast. This is one of the token spells that I would add if I wanted to make fewer tokens from EtB effects and play around Torpor Orb effects.
  • Empty the Warrens: At 4 CMC, this is the most expensive token spell that I consider. However, the storm trigger means that this easily creates an absolutely massive number of goblins. Even if cast during setup before a storm turn, you can usually plan for it and cast at least 1 spell first to make 4+ tokens.
When There's More Than One: Tokens from EtB
Creatures which create tokens when they enter the battlefield have several specific synergies here. First, they are create a larger payout when they are copied by Twinflame effects. They can also be cheated into play via effects like Sneak Attack. Finally, they self-propogate more tokens via Reality Scramble. Swapping tokens into the creatures which generate more tokens can be a rapid way to increase the creature count.
  • Goblin Instigator and Mogg War Marshal: These are the most efficient and lowest cost sources of tokens on EtB triggers. These are efficient enough that they should probably be played in any Zada deck.
  • Seasoned Pyromancer: This is a recent addition, and usually creates at least 1 token. Additionally, this serves a similar role in hand fixing to something like Faithless Looting by digging for the effect you need at the time. Keep in mind that the discard and draw effects are mandatory, so sequence your spells to keep what's desired and keep a sacrifice outlet ready to avoid decking yourself from multiple Twinflames.
  • Beetleback Chief: A 4 CMC option for 3 goblins, all of which are goblins. This is expensive for my low CMC deck, but it can nearly reach the target creature count by itself. Additionally, the goblin mana based synergies make this effective.
  • Scampering Scorcher: A less color intensive second copy of beetleback chief without the tribal synergies is still worth playing.
  • Siege-Gang Commander: This is the highest cost in my curve. 5 CMC for 4 goblins can reach the minimum threshold for a possible storm with no other cards. The higher probability to be able to generate r, and the ability to deal noncombat damage at instant speed are why this is included over Pia and Kiran Nalaar or Emrakul's Hatcher.
  • Emrakul's Hatcher: Cost to creatures, this is a better option than siege-gang commander in a vacuum. Generating mana without any supporting cards can be very effective, even if that mana is colorless.
  • Goblin Goliath: In an average game, this is about the same effect as siege-gang commander with a higher cost. If you copy or untap it, the activated ability can perform the same effect as Overblaze if you aren't running the arcane package. I've excluded it for curve reasons.
  • Chancellor of the Forge: This is by far the highest possible number of creatures created from this type of effect, and mitigates the drawback of having it in your opening hand by generating 1 token for free. This is worth including if your deck includes ways to put it into play for less mana, such as Reality Scramble. Combined with Underworld Breach to repeatedly Twinflame is a massive number of creatures possible from a token source.
Scrambling the Thopters: Artifact Tokens from EtB
I've separated the sources of artifact creature tokens because these can find all the artifact sources of mana in the deck from Reality Scramble. I recommend sequencing the non-tokens first so that they are put back into play off the copies of Reality scramble. The three common tokens generated are elementals, goblins, and thopters. Resolve copies of reality scramble in that order. There are few elemental synergies, so this use those to find creatures first. This should result in the maximum goblin count for a Krenko activation. Finally, if the deck no longer contains creatures, then the artifact creatures can pull out the mana producing artifacts and cost reduction.
  • Breya's Apprentice, Thopter Engineer, Ghirapur Gearcrafter, Pia Nalaar: 3 CMC creatures which create a thopter token. I play one of these because it is non-legendary and has the largest from among slight upsides. All of these are playable if you need the effect.
  • Pia and Kiran Nalaar: A 4 CMC option that creates 2 thopters is good. Additionally, this can also sacrifice those thopters for direct damage, which is a lethal option with 5 overblazes. The legendary supertype is the only reason why it might not be included. A deck without as many goblin synergies might run this over siege-gang commander to lower its curve.
  • Precursor Golem: A non-legendary creature that makes tokens and does a decent Zada impression for those tokens. Copying this is basically just as effective as radiating on Zada. However, the key drawback here is that it will radiate your opponents spells as well. The risk is that if golems make up most of our creatures, then a cantrip can be minimized if your opponent uses single-target removal on the golem in response to the copy trigger. It also creates fewer tokens than the other creatures at this CMC.
  • Myr Battlesphere: A high mana cost for 5 creatures. I would run this after already including chancellor of the spires.
More as you Go: Repeatable Sources of Tokens
There are repeatable sources of tokens to continuous increase the creature count before and during the storm turn. These will usually trigger off of actions that would be taken if they were not present, adding additional benefits for casting those spells.
  • Akroan Crusader: A cheap creature that creates tokens when targeted would be great here. However, heroic only triggers if the spell was cast, so radiated spells from Zada won't create tokens. This can set up a difficult choice between a battlefield wide effect or trying to increase our creature count.
  • Young Pyromancer: This is the best in slot for this effect. Remember that Zada's trigger doesn't check the number of creatures when its put onto the stack, meaning that you can resolve the pyromancer's trigger first to add that new elemental to the radiate count.
  • Genesis Chamber: this triggers from non-tokens, of which I play 17. It's cheap enough to resolve before Zada and generate at least 1 token and the symmetric nature isn't very important most of the time. Not being a creature itself reduces its standalone value.
  • Goblinslide: This is the only other version of young pyromancer's trigger in red. It can be mana intensive, but if you have enough rituals it can work well. It does have twice the upfront cost for the first token and is not a creature itself, which is why I've cut it.
  • Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin: With pump available and costing 1 less than Zada, this is probably the most viable in this category. If your starting hand consists of this, Infuriate and a cantrip, then you can make enough creatures to storm. Only triggering once and being effectively dead mid-storm or emptying the mana pool to make tokens by attacking are significant drawbacks.
  • Krenko, Mob Boss: Krenko is straightforward, he doubles your goblins. Normally, this is an ability that you can only activate once each turn. However, each time that Zada radiates Twinflame creates a new token copy of Krenko. The legend rule only allows one to remain, so if you sacrifice the tapped Krenko, then you can activate the free copy to double your goblins again.


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Pump Spells

I refer to spells that radiate off Zada and power up all our creatures as pump spells/effects. These may increase power for a more lethal attack, toughness so that we can self-damage our creatures or provide useful abilities in combat. A deck that is fully invested in storm as it's primary method of winning may forgo more of these to run more of the critical three cantrips/creatures/rituals. A deck that doesn't storm may play more of these to more frequently enable lethal attack steps.
Pump Spells
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Surviving the Mischief: Instants with Toughness
The best pump spells in my list are cheap instants which increase toughness. These are the best to play with self-damaging cantrips such as Rile because you can cast them immediately as you draw them if creatures had been dying to that effect. Instants can also perform their intended use as combat tricks, threatening a lethal damage attack throughout most of the game.
  • Brute Force: This is the most cost effective spell in this category. While it does not provide any evasion, no other single spell gives 3 toughness.
  • Infuriate: Just as lethal as brute force, but only 2 toughness.
  • Titan's strength: The last +3 power instant that gives toughness. This is also a scrytrip and should probably be played first for that effect, then considered secondarily for damage mitigation and lastly for attacking.
  • Samut's Sprint: Instant speed 2 power that gives toughness and is also a scrytrip. The same mentality as titan's strength applies here.
  • Rush of Adrenaline: This is the last 1 CMC instant that gives more than 1 power and at least 1 toughness without restricting its targets.
  • Inordinate Rage: A 2 CMC scrytrip that also gives +2 toughness. It doesn't provide evasion, so if your deck regularly attacks without storming out, then the lack of trample compared to brute strength may be significant.
  • Neonate's Rush / Brute Strength: These are the other spells I would consider playing that increases toughness and costs more than 1 CMC. I use these primarily to enable to the self damaging portions of the card/token storm section, so they need to be efficient.
  • Built to Smash / Barge In / Run Amok: These are great options during combat, and decks that are often try to storm off during combat should consider these options. As mentioned in the timing restrictive cantrips, the drawback from timing can be large if the deck relies on ritual effects.
  • Raze the Effigy: Same as the cards above, however this has the added benefit of having flexible use as removal. Less power and no evasion than most of the other timing restricted options, so only include if you run into Orbs of Warding + Ensnaring Bridge or something similar.
Hitting like a Mole of Bricks: Instants for Power
There are power increasing and damage doubling effects that provide enough power to deal lethal damage with minimal support. These effects are also what lets the deck deal such astronomical amounts of damage. The ones of these that I play mostly overlap into the arcane package
  • Unleash Fury: Double your power for 2 mana, with no downside other than missing trample. This also is one of the ways to make Spikeshot Elder a lethal threat with minimal support.
  • Enrage: This directly trades mana for power at instant speed, but is ineffective if we don't have much mana. It can be a massive hit, but isn't good every game.
  • Blazing Shoal: A mana sink if you have it to spare or a free pump effect if you don't. It's playable as a pump spell even if you don't run any other arcane spells.
  • Path of Anger's Flame: Don't let the +2/+0 on that card fool you, this card alone will square your power. This gives each creature +2/+0. Splice on anything that adds a target to it's text and this is becomes "creatures you control get +2/+0 for each creature you control". That's power equal to twice your creatures squared. If you cut the arcane package, you cut this card, because it's overcosted without splice.
  • Fatal Frenzy: Doubled power and trample at instant speed makes any other pump spell an immediately lethal attack on one player. It got outclassed in most situations by Unleash Fury.
  • Rush of Blood: The same effect as Fatal fury but without trample and the drawback. This is a good swap if your metagame's control players are creature-light in the mid game and you can kill them on turns when you can't storm.
  • Uncaged Fury: Also similar to fatal fury without the drawback, and even increases toughness. However, it does not provide evasion nor does it play as well with Spikeshot Elder.
  • Downhill Charge: A potentially free spell for +4/+0 or more is a good option if you have that many mountains. As I dropped my land count and the curve, this dropped out as well due to diminishing returns.
  • Overblaze: On it's own overblaze looks like it is basically Rush of Blood. It's still playable as a single-shot damage doubler that could power up Purphoros, God of the Forge or Guttersnipe if they are included. Where overblaze truly shines is in the arcane package, but more on that later.
Telegraphing Lethality: Sorcery Pump
Pump spells at sorcery speed are just as effective as their instant speed counterparts as long as everything goes according to plan. However, they don't provide as many outs to play around or through your opponents. If I have 15 mana floating and an opponent casts Teferi's Protection then instants might be able to let Spikeshot Elder deal lethal damage, but sorceries cannot. These are usually more potent than instants, so they can make the cut in some decks if you don't need to play around your opponent's interaction.
  • Reckless Charge: Innately having flashback gives this some extra reach for lethal damage on a non-storm turn with only six creatures.
  • Distemper of the Blood: This could be considered for a deck that's running discard effects to make use of the madness. Otherwise it's a decent trample enabler on lethal turns without storm.
  • Fit of Rage: +3/+3 is significant, but too slow at sorcery speed.
  • Haze of Rage: A storm spell with buyback means that we can sink any extra mana into increasing amounts of damage. This is far better here than Seething Anger because it will generate more power nearly every time. Unfortunately, sorcery speed and a lack of toughness keep this from making the cut for me.


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Arcane

Arcane spells are the part of this decklist that is most often cut as an entire package. The arcane mechanic was one of the most parasitic mechanics ever printed, and this section is the least likely to ever add new cards too it, unless the two cards from modern horizons with the "splice onto instant or sorcery" text are indicators of a future set.

In terms of deckbuilding, adding arcane spells can represent a sacrifice in consistency. Some of the arcane spells don't really merit inclusion if they were a standalone effect, and it shows if you draw one of them. However, for that sacrifice in deckbuilding you can get absolutely insane payouts when they do come together that simply cannot be matched by cards that are better in a vacuum.

When casting and splicing arcane spells, keep in mind that Zada will only trigger if she is the only target of the spell. If both the main spell and the spliced card have a target, all targets must be Zada. Keep this in mind when you splice Overblaze onto Blazing Shoal.
Arcane Spells
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Explosions? The Arcane Payoffs
These are the upside of the arcane package; the spells that become absolutely ridiculous when the can have the word "target" added to them. These are the argument for including Arcane.
  • Desperate Ritual: The original reason for me to include arcane, and by far the largest ritual possible. It is nearly impossible to run out of mana if you can splice this with a target. Fortunately, this is able to splice itself, so it can be added to any of the arcane carriers without needing to worry about having a carrier with splice to enable it.
  • Through the Breach: An instant speed Sneak Attack without a telegraph, which can be copied for all your creatures. I stopped trying to include this after adding Reality Scramble.
  • Path of Anger's Flame: The only arcane card I include which does not radiate desperate ritual. Additionally, it requires a carrier with splice on it to work. However, the reward for this risky deckbuilding is the ability to literally square your power. This outpaces the geometric growth from doubling and enables maximum possible damage.
  • Crack the Earth: Do you need a way to clear the battlefield? Do you have a way to make more creatures in response so that you don't also lose all 50 thousand creatures? This card still isn't great but is extremely temping sometimes.
Adding Radiation: The Arcane Carriers
The enablers for the arcane package are those cards that can add the text line "target creature" to allow Zada to radiate out all the copies. In an ideal world, the rest of their text is also good to radiate, but due to how insular this mechanic was our choices are limited. Not all the cards in this section have splice themselves, but fortunately Desperate Ritual has it's own splice cost.
  • Into the Fray: While the effect of the card itself is entirely disregarded, a 1 CMC carrier with a 1 CMC splice on it is the most efficient card in slot.
  • Glacial Ray: The second most efficient splicing carrier. However, unless we're already winning, dealing 2 damage to all of our creatures is too high an upfront cost.
  • Strange Inversion: Turning our power into toughness is a catastrophically bad idea for increasing damage. Fortunately we can just cast/splice it again to flip it back. This is too many hoops, even for me.
  • Overblaze: The carrier with the best effect, and has splice itself. Honestly, this card is one of the best arcane spell here and the most likely to be in the deck without the arcane package.
  • Unnatural Speed: This is a haste enabler if we need it and a cheap carrier if we can splice onto it.
  • Blazing Shoal: This is pump if we can afford it and a carrier when we splice onto it. It does not have splice, but it can be cast for free.
  • Unearthly Blizzard: This is a carrier without splice that has the dubious honor of being the next lowest CMC carrier without a suicidally prohibitive drawback.


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Recursion

The most compact card selection to improve our odds of storming out are ways to reuse the spells we have already drawn. Either escape, flashback, or free-casting from graveyard to get twice as much out of most spells in this deck drastically increases our probabilities of successful storms. Rebuilding after disruption or trying for a second storm turn also benefit from access to these recursion options.
Recursion
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  • Underworld Breach: The newest addition to this list is also one of the most powerful. This costs less mana than any other flashback effect, while the spell being recast does not get exiled. Considering how many spells we can cast, our graveyard will nearly always have fuel for this and the end of turn trigger should rarely matter. It's also good in nearly any situation, as long as you drew one of a given effect that game. Need cards, creatures, or mana? Escape the one you need, as many times as you need to. Do you want to make the 1.6x10^18 damage number I mentioned in my introduction look like a rounding error? Radiate Twinflame another 15 times before you splice onto Path of Anger's Flame. Seriously, this card is ridiculous.
  • Krark, the Thumbless: Both possible outcomes for krark's coin flip are good. Winning the flip is effectively another creature to radiate to, while losing only subtracts the initial copy but then lets you recast. There's no downside to running Krark. The losing of a flip is why I consider him to be recursion, because 50% of the time, the Zada trigger will radiate the spell and Krark effectively gives buyback 0. Add Krark to the recasting loop I mentioned for underworld breach and get another cast of twinflame 50% of the time.
  • Past in Flames: The original mass flashback spell is still great. The ability to recast multiple spells from your graveyard will usually set up a winning turn. Even in cases when it does not, having flashback itself is some extra redundancy for future turns.
  • Backdraft Hellkite: Past in Flames, the creature. This is a good option, but suffers from the same issue that cantrips that need to be cast during combat do; mana emptying from pools. As long as you can start by flashing back a ritual during or after combat then the storm can continue. Otherwise, it sets up for next turn. It's a good card here, but is usually outclassed by Goblin Dark Dwellers.
  • Goblin Dark-Dwellers: A flashback of nearly any spell in this deck on EtB enables chains that end up recasting half of your graveyard. This is worth including despite tied as the highest CMC card in my deck because it can often prevent a storm turn from stopping early. Recasting a cantrip, then getting copied to flashback that Heat Shimmer then playing one or two rituals for free is a common line of play.
  • Bloodthirsty Adversary: This is effectively a second Dark-Dwellers, which can be used once for effectively the same cost. the difference between the two comes down to timing. Adversar can be cast before Zada without paying extra, and count as an additional creature. Alternatively, its cost can be paid many times to copy your entire graveyard on one copy. However, if you Heat Shimmer this card, there will be a mana cost associated with those copies. It does not make the cut for me, but it is a solid inclusion.
  • Mizzix's Mastery: The overload is what makes this card. Filling your graveyard while storming is usually straightforward. This was in my build until Underworld Breach replaced it.
  • Finale of Promise: Cast at X=2 will cover most spells in this deck as a flashback option at the same cost. The extra copies at X=10 don't cast so they are usually redundant with Zada.
  • Ardent Elementalist / Anarchist / Revolutionist: Returning a cantrip or ritual on EtB is great, but the However, Heat Shimmer + Traitorous Greed becomes an infinite combo with any of these and I'm limiting this deck to non-infinite. If you'd like to include infinites, these can pull their weight while also filling other roles in the deck. Ardent elementalist is clearly the best from among them based on CMC alone.
  • Recoup: This has similar uses to anarchist, and the sorcery limitation keeps me from playing it. If you play more sorcery cantrips, this can be considered.
  • Shreds of Sanity: This is the first direct recursion to hand that I would include, because it can return the majority of the spells needed to storm, plus a token source. Only returning 1 cantrip or ritual for 3 mana isn't sufficient in my opinion. I'd rather just run another cantrip.
  • Goblin Welder / Goblin Engineer: These are solid options to recover key artifacts if you are playing them as enablers or win conditions. A deck planning on using Cloudstone Curio might run goblin engineer to tutor for and recur it. These can use treasures or thopter tokens for their cost, or may just sacrifice tapped mana rocks.
  • Elixir of Immortality or other reshuffle effects: These can enable infinite combo, but add some significant resiliency. I can't include them due to my deckbuilding limitations.


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Additional Card Selection

These cards help smooth draws, improve mulligans, and set up storms. Adding more of these should improve the consistency of your deck.
Additional Draw and Selection
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Digging Deeper: Incremental Card Advantage
While my specific decklist is focused an drawing cards from cantrips, this can force some difficult mulligans to have that first cantrip. If there you're already playing all the cantrips that your deck can support, then adding some of generally good red draw effects can dig deeper into the deck. I don't have the available card slots for many of these, but this effect is a common addition for players who cut the arcane package.
  • Scroll Rack: When I do my math, I usually consider this as a cantrip effect, but not as my first one. In terms of probability count it as a cantrip to draw into during storm, but not as a cantrip for the odds of having 1+ in starting hand. This can help set up for a storm turn before Zada resolves, but really pulls its weight when your hand is full but missing something during storm. A budget alternative is Credit Voucher.
  • Valakut Awakening // Valakut Stoneforge: This is an instant which can also be a land. The draw is approximately the same as Scroll Rack, but one shot, 1 more card, and triggers magecraft and young pyromancer.
  • Seasoned Pyromancer: Seasoned pyromancer does help improve the card selection available and dig through land pockets, if those occur. This pulls primary duty as a token source but fits this category as well.
  • Abbot of Keral Keep / Viashino Racketeer / Cavalier of Flame: Drawing on EtB can play well with our creature copy effects to copy the triggers. These are less mana efficient than some of the other options.
  • Wheel of Fortune / Wheel of Fate / Reforge the Soul / Wheel of Misfortune: The standard red wheel effect. Drawing 7 cards is good, but these have higher costs than cantrips and often draw fewer cards. They can be a reasonable way to setup up the storm turn. I exclude these so that I can set up the arcane package in my hand for splicing.
  • Faithless Looting: This is the most looting in a single card available, and likely the first of these effects that I would include.
  • Tormenting Voice / Thrill of Possibility / Cathartic Reunion: These can be effective if you have the slots and are avoiding wheels to keep the CMC or budget down. Notably, all of these can be cast off Kari Zev's Expertise.
  • Merchant of the Vale // Haggle: a one shot loot that can be a creature that gives more looting as a mana sink. It's only mana efficient at the adventure and doesn't make the cut on that alone. It's best case use if you have a huge ritual but no cantrip. I'd probably run recursion for that cantrip over this type of effect.
  • Act on Impulse / Light Up the Stage: the newest red 'draw' effect can be effective here, but messes up splicing arcane spells.
  • Burning Prophet: Cards that trigger to scry on cast are somewhat deceptive here. The sheer amount of card draw available from single cast triggers makes these less effective than you would expect. It would almost invariably be better to play another scrytrip instead.
  • Hazoret's Monument This is similar to burning prophet but has even fewer opportunities to trigger due to the creature count. It can be cost reduction, but will not do much beyond break even most games.
  • Skullclamp: drawing cards while losing creatures decreases our future odds of drawing into the next cantrip. I don't recommend this in a deck that wants to storm.
  • Harnfel, Horn of Bounty: The flip side to Birgi; the horn of Bounty can turn an otherwise ended storm turn that drew only land into filtering. With even minimal surplus mana this is a solid choice. This side isn't why you play the card, but it's a serious use. However, if mana is not a problem, then hold Birgi back because the horn effectively triples any card draw
Assemble the Machine: Tutoring
Tutors for the cards needed to go off are a great way to improve consistency. Unfortunately, red doesn't get many of these and they are often expensive. This section is one of the first dropped in a budget list. The drawback of the tutors is that they're usually worse than a cantrip during the storm turn, so they're mostly used just for setting up. I only play ones which can search for key engine components of either type.


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Backup Damage and Alternate Strategies

These are pathways to either win with fewer actions take or in response to your opponents; shortcuts for you ask if opponents have an out. I play a couple of these that I can deploy for massive single damage hits, but there are also sources of consistent damage/life loss which kill our opponents as the storm progresses. If your playgroup wants the game to be over more quickly, these are the cards to use.
Backup and Alternate Wincons
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I Expect You to Die: Massive Single Damage
These cards provide the ability to deal immense single-target damage at instant speed. I use these instead of any more specific interaction with my opponents, or when opponents just want me to end it.
  • Firestorm: 1 mana for damage up to your hand size. This is the easiest way to end the game after you've drawn your deck and have more creatures than your opponent with the highest life total. You have to have X targets, but can target your own tokens as needed. Playing this with instant speed cantrips is a simple way to push past an opponent's interaction and reach lethal damage.
  • Spikeshot Elder: This is an instant speed, repeatable mana sink that gets better as you increase its power. As long as you have enough power and mana, just kill them in response again. It also comes down early and contributes to early creature counts.
  • Mogg Fanatic / Siege-Gang Commander / Pia and Kiran Nalaar / Make Mischief tokens: None of these will kill anyone without support, but stacking overblazes on them at instant speed makes these lethal threats with a single activation or trigger. Mogg fanatic specifically is unassuming enough to be cast on turn 1 and contribute to the initial creature count. Siege-gang and Pia and Kiran are also repeatable for stack wars. The best counter spell is them being dead.
  • Lightning Storm: This is the only other non-telegraphed kill spell in this category beside Firestorm, but it's like playing chicken with your opponents. First, cast this on Zada to get copies for each creature. If you discard three lands to any single copy, that's 9 damage to your opponents. However, if your opponents can pool enough lands in their hand together then you might die too.
  • Fiery Gambit: Unlike previous entries of Fiery gambit onto this list, this one is twice as probable to succeed. If you choose to stop flipping at 2 wins, then you get to deal 6 damage to each opponent. A normal distribution means that you have decent odds of dealing 42 damage and winning immediately if you cast it on 28 creatures. Again: it's not a guarantee, but it is a useful metric to estimate your odds with. This is usually something that I do mostly as a time-saving technique to keep my opponents from waiting too long for the game to end. A good shortcut to take less time with Fiery gambit (which has the same probability) is to first declare up front how many flips you want to stop at, in this case 2. Declare up front what will be a success: odd or even. Then roll that many dice at once for each creature, resolving independently for each creature. If I'm casting this for lethal, I'll usually declare "even" and roll 2d6 for each creature. A double even roll is then a success. This takes much less time to do than deciding independently for each creature and flip.
  • Seize the Day with Expanded Anatomy: These both radiate for combat steps equal to your creature count, and add vigilance. Either of these alone isn't that great, but together this multiplies your available power to table clearing levels. If you include Learn cantrips and your group allows sideboards, then Expanded Anatomy does not even need a deck slot.
Rolling Thunderclap: Continuous Damage Triggers
These are methods of killing your opponent via trigger abilities then will happen as you storm. I don't include these so that I don't kill my opponents before I am ready to, but they are powerful methods to win. If you just want to win and not calculate 18+ digit numbers then these are strong inclusions.
  • Psychosis Crawler: Would you like to win just by drawing cards? A non-damaging method to kill your opponents via life loss for drawing cards. It usually needs a way to reshuffle the graveyard into your library such as Elixir of Immortality to ensure a kill if drawn deep into the deck. Can also be enabled via scroll rack.
  • Purphoros, God of the Forge and Impact Tremors: Damage your opponents as you make creatures. These are effective in most red token-based decks and that remain true here. Terror of the Peaks will probably be a budget replacement here after it rotates out of standard.
  • Altar of the Brood: Mill in mono-red is possible here from the same triggers as Purphoros.
  • Guttersnipe / Aetherflux Reservoir / Aria of Flame: Damage your opponents as you cast spells. Guttersnipe specifically works very well here as we copy it and double its damage. Aetherflux has powerful interactions with Treasonous Ogre.
  • Brallin, Skyshark Rider: Discarding cards if something that my list avoids, but with discard outlets and damage doublers this can kill quickly.
The Nuclear Option: Going Infinite
There are several cards that can be added here that enable infinite combos and arbitrary amounts of damage. I exclude these not because infinite combos are bad, but instead because I enjoy going the math to get a that extremely large number. Without infinite combos there is always a puzzle from game to game, testing to see if I can beat my old record in a given board state. There is, of course, nothing wrong with going infinite but I personally avoid them in this deck. These are the single cards which go infinite without any other additions.


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Interaction, Metagaming, and Other Power Synergies

There are some potent options that make Zada more consistent, flexible, and resilient. Of course, I don't play many of them but they are solid choices to improve your winrate and provides outs to common counterplay.
Spoiler
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  • Reality Scramble: This is the card that determined that I would focus on creature-based sources of tokens. By radiating it, you can replace all your tokens with non-tokens, which in turn generates more tokens and mana. The ideal sequencing for this card is discussed in the tokens section. It also has retrace to enable multiple casts.
  • Indomitable Creativity: Similar payout to reality scramble, but destroying the target is a much higher cost.
  • Possibility Storm: Zada triggers when you cast the instant/sorcery, and so does this. This means that you radiate all your copies, and get to flip into another spell which will likely radiate as well. You can even chose which order to resolve them in, so you can possibility storm that Rile into Heat Shimmer, then radiate the shimmer off Zada before resolving the trigger to radiate rile. Additionally, this chaotic effect prevents your opponents from knowing what they're casting. It's virtually one-sided. The only reason this is not in my deck is the CMC and the amount of time it takes to use.
  • Flaring Pain / Skullcrack / Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp: The damage can't be prevented clause pushes damage though Teferi's Protection, Angel's Grace and Deflecting Palm. Stomp specifically can be radiated by Zada to make it difficult to counter the effect.
  • Chaos Warp: Removal for anything, but secretly can flip your library, including lands into play with enough targets for Zada. Note that this is not Warp World and each one has to be independent. Also note that this can be set up to only hit permanents via Scroll Rack if your library is small enough.
  • Pyroblast / Red Elemental Blast: counterspell and removal options against one of the most common colors in commander. Most often used to counter counterspells.
  • Deflecting Swat: Redirect removal or counterspells to themselves or their owners. This is probably the most mana effcient option from this section.
  • Swiftfoot Boots: Protect Zada from removal, she is the linchpin for the deck.
  • Goblin Chirurgeon: lose a goblin to regenerate Zada, and contributes to the creature count.
  • Otherworldly Outburst: Keep your creature count though a board wipe, or as you sacrifice them for mana.


Lands

My lands are extremely straightforward. With low costs and cost reducing effects, r is significantly better than 1.
Spoiler
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  • Mountain: While this text may seem like a joke; this deck is extremely hunger for red mana. This is what mountains are good at.
  • Dwarven Mine: This is also a mountain, but can create a free token. The EtB tapped clause can be a drawback, but we only play 4-6 lands most games. If you expect not to succeed in the 3 other mountain clause, then play it early.
  • Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx: At the least it taps for colorless, this can be an effective ritual if you can hold off on your land for turn during the storm turn. The devotion to red grows quickly as you make token copies of creatures.
  • Great Furnace: An artifact land that taps for red and can show up off of Reality Scramble.
  • Ancient Tomb: A solid source of colorless that can accelerate the storm turn. It could replace Sol Ring, but I don't think that my mulligans can support going down another land.
  • Cavern of Souls: if you are worried about counterspells on Zada, this is the lowest opportunity cost option. It's colorless mana for most of the deck, but forcing Zada through counters is worth it if your metagame requires it.
  • Reliquary Tower: With cost reduction, colorless mana isn't very useful during the storm turn. However, if you're playing a Zada aggro deck, then this is solid. Especially if you're playing Inner Fire.
  • Kher Keep: this was originally in my deck, but 1 token/turn at 3 mana, and not producing red are high enough costs that it was removed. I'd recommend trying dwarven mine first.




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Deck Strategy





Zada is a rather straightforward deck to play. Make creatures, cast Zada, draw cards, and try to win. Different deck builds will execute that last step somewhat differently, at different rates. I'll be discussing specifically how my deck plays, which is as fast as possible, and rather risky.

If I'm honest about the metagame that this deck plays in, 7 of 10 games when I play Zada are games where we're trying to play as fast a game as possible. These are maximum speed aggro decks like Najeela, Krenko, or against storm decks like Zada (we call this mirror match dragracing) or K'rrik Son of Yawgmoth and we're trying to get in several games before the venue closes or another pod finishes their game. Those games I play extremely risky. If I'm playing against more interactive decks then I'm usually more cautious.

Turn 0: Mulligans
The first thing to keep in mind in my Zada build is that the deck hinges on radiating the first cantrip on Zada. There is so much card disadvantage in my deck that step 1 is not how you play the first turn, but how you chose to mulligan. The change to the London Mulligan has improve these odds somewhat. The shortest description that I can give for a keepable hand is one with a cantrip and 2+ creatures in it, including tokens. I am usually aggressive with my mulligans down to 5 if necessary to find this type of hand. I play 27 sources of creatures, so we have decent probability to draw a creature and a land in the first several turns, significantly more likely than drawing a cantrip.

Early Game Strategy
I consider anything before Zada resolves the first time to be the early game. This usually means turns 1-3. Your primary objective at this time is to play creatures, as many is reasonably possible. The secondary objective is to set up ramp as able. Having mana left over after casting Zada is where you want to be.

The deck is not interactive in any stage before the endgame, so this doesn't change based much on what your opponents are playing. The key here is playing around board control. If you expect your opponents to have a board wipe early, then reduce the number of creatures you commit the the battlefield. Commit 1 or 2 cards to increase your creature count and draw out the wipe, but keep at least 1 good creature source in your hand if possible. If you've committed your entire hand of creatures to the battlefield and are topdecking for more after the wipe, then it doesn't really matter if you have 4 cantrips in your hand and Zada in play.

The Critical Moment
The turn you cast Zada is the tipping point in your game. This is usually between turn 3 and 5. You will have two broad choices in most games.
  • Cast Zada as soon as possible, even if you're tapping out. If your opponents have never seen this deck before or are not playing a lot of early game interaction then this is viable. Otherwise, I'd only recommend this if you have no other choice, delaying a single turn doesn't let you storm, or you have some form of protection.
  • Cast Zada when you will have mana untapped or floating, usually delayed by a turn. Even 1 mana can be enough left over as long as you have a cantrip you can use immediately. This is the safest approach, because Zada still radiates it; even if she is destroyed in response and the spell is countered.
If I have 4 mana and 3 creatures in play, with a 2 CMC cantrip and 2 CMC token source in hand, then I'm usually willing to cast Zada at this point unless my opponents are playing 5+ removal spells each. If I untap with that battlefield, I'll have 6 creatures and a cantrip and I like those odds. However, if that cantrip is 1 CMC, I'll likely delay to next turn and just play those creatures now. Playstyle here is mostly a matter of risk aversion, and I'm often willing to test where my opponents have a way to stop me. This probably doesn't make sense in every playgroup.

If you've delayed casting Zada until a later turn, then be more conservative with what you commit to the battlefield. Based on the effect density that I play, I prefer to retain excess creatures beyond 5-6 in hand to rebuild in the case of a board wipe. This is the closest Zada has to a mid-game. This will be a holding pattern until you can resolve Zada and try to storm.

The Storm Turn
It's between turn 3 and 6, and Zada is in play with some mana untapped/floating and is ready to go.
  • Step 1: maximize creatures. Play as many creatures as you can with your 'available' mana. This is the mana after you account for the cost of your cantrip and any ritual you have or hope to draw. Use a ritual during this process if necessary, but make sure that you have at least 1 mana left over after your cantrip, preferably 2. Best case is Treasonous Ogre and you have flexibility after having paid 12 life for Zada.
  • Step 2: cantrip. Draw cards to find rituals. Draw these one at a time early on, the sequencing can be important. If you drew 3 of 6 cards and found a scrytrip, but no cantrip yet then consider weaving in the scrytrip depending on your available mana. Keep in mind that most rituals cost around 2 mana.
  • Step 3: maximize ritual if needed. This may mean playing Runaway Steam-Kin, Helm of Awakening, or Krenko's Command into Brightstone Ritual. Be prepared to pay for the next loop. If this is not needed, then just play the cost reduction and the artifacts.
  • Step 4: go to step 1 if able, else go to step 5
  • Step 5.1: You stopped this loop because you have your deck in your hand and a couple mana floating. Go to step 6.
  • Step 5.2: You stopped the loop because you missed drawing a cantrip or a ritual and only have limited mana left. Do have the ability to deal lethal damage to 1 or more players? Even if you didn't draw your entire deck, it's common to have upwards of 50 power available. Consider attacking. Do you have Fiery Gambit and 5 creatures? Roll the dice on a 1:8 chance, you might not be done yet. I've won a game in a prize supported tournament with that gamble.
  • Step 6: You win. I win by ensuring that I have plenty of mana, then playing out maximum creatures before doubling them as many times as possible. If you're playing guttersnipe or impact tremors, you probably won back in steps 1-3.
All sarcasm aside, the deck is usually straightforward to pilot, and is most often a matter of knowing the probability of an event based on your deckbuilding and making the most of the current board state and hand. A storm turn is often either a blowout with obvious lines of play or a meager budget where you have to decide whether to keep your mana back until after the next cantrip or commit to a larger battlefield. There's not a lot of middle ground, it scrapes by until it explodes.

General Tips:

If at all possible during a storm turn, try to keep lands untapped. Unless your storm is mid-combat (an effective strategy if enough creatures are already in play or you use combat-based cantrips), ritual mana will leave your pool. Lands are least likely to be removed without warning at instant speed, so having safer mana sources for protection or pushing though damage can be very effective.

If at all possible on your storm turn, don't play the first mountain that you draw. Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is often worth waiting to find.

Counterspells are nowhere near as effective as normal at denying resources here once Zada is in play. Countering a single copy of our spells is a fraction of the total effect. Even removing Zada doesn't remove her trigger from the stack Stifle effects can be punishing, but at least the original spell should resolve. Note that most players seeing Zada for the first time won't realize this interaction. Also note that memories of bad events tend to stick with people more than successes, so you opponents will remember it after the first time.




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Credit & Thanks




@DementedKirby and @lyonhaert have been significant contributors to the art of Zada, and may be posting their own lists here to link into the Alternate Decklists for different budget considerations and playstyles. We had discussed a group primer back on the old MTGSalvation before I got lost in a black hole of working adulthood.

@Taleran, Myrmadillo and Admiral Sultan gave a lot of good input on the MTGSalvation thread over the years.

@Rumpy5897 is to blame for reminding me that primers exist.




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Change Log




This will only include changes from after the first post was revised in March 2020. The majority of cards were discussed at release in the original MTGSalvation thread here.
Changelog March 4, 2020
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Crazy Monkey wrote:
1 year ago
I have not updated this post at the rate that I've updated the deck, so some of these changes are old. I also added some more description of lines of play and effect density in deckbuilding. Those were topics of discussion in the old thread back on MTGsalvation, and the discussion on weaving spells between copies was never added to the OP.
Changelog April 15, 2021
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Crazy Monkey wrote:
6 months ago
I was making the changes for Strixhaven, and noticed that my post list is was out of date. This is the changelog for the, apparently, past year and includes the cards I'm testing from Strixhaven. I feel reasonable confident that the learn mechanic will stick around.
Changelog October 12, 2021
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Crazy Monkey wrote:
1 week ago
This changelog reflects the testing I've done with Breya's apprentice. As expected, I didn't find a drawback for the swap. I also have apparently been playing 101 cards, despite me count the cards in my deck on a semi-regular basis.
changelog
Approximate Total Cost:

Last edited by Crazy Monkey 1 week ago, edited 53 times in total.
Commander Decks


Kemba | Kytheon | Talrand | Unesh | Teferi | Geth | primer Zada | Krenko | Torbran | Patron Orochi | Ghalta | Gargos | Medomai | Lavinia | Silumgar | The Count | Xenagos | Nikya | Trostani | Athreos | Jarad | Kydele & Thrasios | Nin | Krark & Sakashima | Gisela | Feather | Osgir | Roon | Chulane | Sydri | Ertai | Mairsil | Prossh | Marath | Marisi | Vial & Ravos | Marchesa | Syr Gwyn | Riku | Riku | Animar | Ghave | Tasigur | Muldrotha | Rayami | Zedruu | Yidris | Kynaios & Tiro | Saskia | Tymna & Kydele | Atraxa | Akiri & Silas | Genju | Sisay | Ur Dragon | Golos | Horde | Najeela | Traxos

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lyonhaert
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Post by lyonhaert » 2 years ago

Yo! I can change my sig link now.

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Post by Crazy Monkey » 2 years ago

Any thoughts on cross linking the Nexus thread and MTGS thread so that players can reference multiple conversations? While likely convenient, I'm unsure on whether that would be acceptable for either platform, due to prospective solicitation concerns.
Commander Decks


Kemba | Kytheon | Talrand | Unesh | Teferi | Geth | primer Zada | Krenko | Torbran | Patron Orochi | Ghalta | Gargos | Medomai | Lavinia | Silumgar | The Count | Xenagos | Nikya | Trostani | Athreos | Jarad | Kydele & Thrasios | Nin | Krark & Sakashima | Gisela | Feather | Osgir | Roon | Chulane | Sydri | Ertai | Mairsil | Prossh | Marath | Marisi | Vial & Ravos | Marchesa | Syr Gwyn | Riku | Riku | Animar | Ghave | Tasigur | Muldrotha | Rayami | Zedruu | Yidris | Kynaios & Tiro | Saskia | Tymna & Kydele | Atraxa | Akiri & Silas | Genju | Sisay | Ur Dragon | Golos | Horde | Najeela | Traxos

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Post by lyonhaert » 2 years ago

It's absolutely fine. I don't have a huge thread on Sally, so I may or may not crosslink. But if I do I'll possibly just put a link at the top of both (e.g., both Chainer threads), leading to the other. Or the bottom of the OP. :thinking:

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Post by Rumpy5897 » 2 years ago

I left Nexus links on my old MTGS threads pretty much everywhere possible - in huge red letters at the top of the OP, in a final thread post, even swapping my sig links.

That said, cool deck is cool. I'm liking the arcane subtheme, which must be quite a hoot to get online. Is Mogg Fanatic worth a slot? I can vouch Fists of Flame is a riot in my Feather, the Redeemed, and has started being my go-to wincon for a faux-Hoof ever since they banned Pengine. Is Seasoned Pyromancer no-go?
 
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Post by lyonhaert » 2 years ago

Rumpy5897 wrote:
2 years ago
I left Nexus links on my old MTGS threads pretty much everywhere possible - in huge red letters at the top of the OP, in a final thread post, even swapping my sig links.

That said, cool deck is cool. I'm liking the arcane subtheme, which must be quite a hoot to get online. Is Mogg Fanatic worth a slot? I can vouch Fists of Flame is a riot in my Feather, the Redeemed, and has started being my go-to wincon for a faux-Hoof ever since they banned Pengine. Is Seasoned Pyromancer no-go?
With enough instances of Overblaze, Mogg Fanatic will take out a player. There are multiple other options for instant-speed direct damage, too, like Spikeshot Elder, Pie & Cake, Siege-Gang Commander. Do you use Zada in your Feather deck?

Seasoned Pyromancer is possibly really good for this deck, especially when you start radiating Twinflame/Heat Shimmer to make more Pyromancers to accelerate the rummaging. But it's a fairly expensive card right now for a niche deck. That's what's keeping me from getting a copy, anyway, when there are other cards to try.

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Post by Rumpy5897 » 2 years ago

That is janky as all hell, and probably worth a slot on the strength of that. Following this kind of trail of thought, Fists of Flame should be actively good here. Chain a few cantrips, Hoof up your board, melt face.

Yeah, I do run Zada in Feather. The deck's like a coward's take on this list, running 10+ recyclable protection spells to ensure that stuff sticks on board, and building up critical mass by spamming Heals over and over again for one card at a time. This speeds up considerably once Zada lands.

I did not factor budget in at all, OP's ramming a Mana Crypt :P
 
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Post by lyonhaert » 2 years ago

Personally, the difference to me is that Seasoned Pyromancer is probably only useful in Zada, but Mana Crypt is useful everywhere, hahaha. In any case, I'll likely end up with a SPyromancer for free off of points/credit somewhere. There's just other stuff I want to get first.

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Post by Crazy Monkey » 2 years ago

I do have a seasoned pyromancer for my next round of testing. It should occupy a solid slot that combines draw with tokens, but is less effecient for either alone. My particular build is not budget, but does make effort to stay on theme.

Fists of Flame alone has been lethal in games so far (testing swapped with chaotic strike).

Side note, I also have a Feather deck that goes off the rails once Zada resolves.
Commander Decks


Kemba | Kytheon | Talrand | Unesh | Teferi | Geth | primer Zada | Krenko | Torbran | Patron Orochi | Ghalta | Gargos | Medomai | Lavinia | Silumgar | The Count | Xenagos | Nikya | Trostani | Athreos | Jarad | Kydele & Thrasios | Nin | Krark & Sakashima | Gisela | Feather | Osgir | Roon | Chulane | Sydri | Ertai | Mairsil | Prossh | Marath | Marisi | Vial & Ravos | Marchesa | Syr Gwyn | Riku | Riku | Animar | Ghave | Tasigur | Muldrotha | Rayami | Zedruu | Yidris | Kynaios & Tiro | Saskia | Tymna & Kydele | Atraxa | Akiri & Silas | Genju | Sisay | Ur Dragon | Golos | Horde | Najeela | Traxos

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Post by Rumpy5897 » 2 years ago

Your land base keeps on intriguing me. I can't seem to find anything in the 99 that rewards you for sticking to basics. You don't seem to be quite as crazily colour-heavy to not be able to slot in a Kher Keep or a Reliquary Tower. Admittedly this won't make or break the deck. Is there something I'm missing, like with Mogg Fanatic?
 
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Post by lyonhaert » 2 years ago

Rumpy5897 wrote:
2 years ago
Your land base keeps on intriguing me. I can't seem to find anything in the 99 that rewards you for sticking to basics. You don't seem to be quite as crazily colour-heavy to not be able to slot in a Kher Keep or a Reliquary Tower. Admittedly this won't make or break the deck. Is there something I'm missing, like with Mogg Fanatic?
Just a heavy reliance on r, even when Ruby Medallion/Helm of Awakening are out. I think I'm running Ancient Tomb and Cavern of Souls. Reliquary Tower and Kher Keep could work for some folks and not be useful for others, depending on how their deck plays out. Personally I'm not sure I'd run Kher Keep because that's 3 lands I'd have to tap for a token, so if I have nothing better I can spend that 3 mana on I would be examining why that was. Probably wouldn't hurt, though.

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Post by Nimbaway » 2 years ago

It's good to see the thread on here as well, as enjoyed reading the input on the deck that happened on MtG:S. I'm not on the Arcane and Aggro plan myself with Zada, but seek to gain my wins through card draw instead.

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lyonhaert
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Post by lyonhaert » 2 years ago

Backdraft Hellkite and Ignite the Future.

The latter might not look like much at first, but you get access to playing those 3 cards until the end of your next turn. I definitely want to try that one. Would be unfortunate if it hit Mizzix's Mastery off of it's flashback, though, as I'm pretty sure we can only play those 3 cards without paying their mana costs rather than opting to pay.

And Backdraft Hellkite's flashback could be really nice with instants, at the least. It would make Ignite half the cost on flashback, but it's a sorcery. For sorcery-speed stuff, attacking with a 4/4 in the air is feasible for recasting some stuff in second main to set up for the next turn, though it's 5 CMC without haste. I'm considering Emergence Zone for possible flash for going off at attack step, and definitely our sources of haste like some of the cantrips and Cavalier of Flame will be good.

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Post by DementedKirby » 2 years ago

What up, Crazy Monkey? Great to see you over here on the Nexus along with your bodacious Zada deck.
Backdraft Hellkite says "hi"
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Post by lyonhaert » 2 years ago

[mention]DementedKirby[/mention], you can actually mention folks over here. ;)

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Post by DementedKirby » 2 years ago

lyonhaert wrote:
2 years ago
@DementedKirby, you can actually mention folks over here. ;)
Oof! Even better for the shout outs. Gotta figure out how it's done.

That Backdraft Hellkite is no joke, though. Definitely gonna test it in my own Zada build.
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Post by SocorroTortoise » 2 years ago

lyonhaert wrote:
2 years ago
Backdraft Hellkite and Ignite the Future.

The latter might not look like much at first, but you get access to playing those 3 cards until the end of your next turn. I definitely want to try that one. Would be unfortunate if it hit Mizzix's Mastery off of it's flashback, though, as I'm pretty sure we can only play those 3 cards without paying their mana costs rather than opting to pay.
As written, it looks like you can still opt to pay. It's not worded as a replacement effect so it shouldn't overwrite the second sentence. That's probably something to confirm when the release notes show up.
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lyonhaert
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Post by lyonhaert » 2 years ago

DementedKirby wrote:
2 years ago
lyonhaert wrote:
2 years ago
@DementedKirby, you can actually mention folks over here. ;)
Oof! Even better for the shout outs. Gotta figure out how it's done.

That Backdraft Hellkite is no joke, though. Definitely gonna test it in my own Zada build.
When you're writing your reply, starting with @ and then typing at least 2 letters is supposed to bring up a completion drop-down, but you can also just use mention tags with exact username like [mention]DementedKirby[/mention].
SocorroTortoise wrote:
2 years ago
lyonhaert wrote:
2 years ago
Backdraft Hellkite and Ignite the Future.

The latter might not look like much at first, but you get access to playing those 3 cards until the end of your next turn. I definitely want to try that one. Would be unfortunate if it hit Mizzix's Mastery off of it's flashback, though, as I'm pretty sure we can only play those 3 cards without paying their mana costs rather than opting to pay.
As written, it looks like you can still opt to pay. It's not worded as a replacement effect so it shouldn't overwrite the second sentence. That's probably something to confirm when the release notes show up.
That's what had me confused. I've been trying to find a card that's similar where it allows you to cast, then "if" and allows to cast without paying mana costs to see if there are any rulings on that.

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Post by Crazy Monkey » 2 years ago

[Mention]lyonhaert[/mention], [mention]dementedkirby[/mention] greetings. I will actually be more active here, as it is more mobile friendly.

I agree with both of you, but I am more interested in dockside extortionist as ritual effect. It seems situational, but should give 1 mana in most games and more in certain situations.
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Post by Rumpy5897 » 2 years ago

A nice mobile-friendly thing the site does is offer wrapping card names in two layers of [] as functional card tags. Just a heads up in case it turns out to be useful.
 
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lyonhaert
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Post by lyonhaert » 2 years ago

Crazy Monkey wrote:
2 years ago
lyonhaert, dementedkirby greetings. I will actually be more active here, as it is more mobile friendly.

I agree with both of you, but I am more interested in dockside extortionist as ritual effect. It seems situational, but should give 1 mana in most games and more in certain situations.
For some reason I hadn't even thought of Dockside Extortionist that way. :facepalm:

If he even provides 2 treasures per instance that's pretty darn good, especially with Twinflaming. More than 2 is definitely gas. Now, how can we be a little more certain our opponents have artifacts/enchantments? I'm thinking Genesis Chamber. I've been wanting to test that one, though I'm trying to do searches for other possibilities that also work within what the deck wants when we don't have Extortionist (i.e., not Ashnod's Transmogrant, Liquimetal Coating, or Thran forge).

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Post by Crazy Monkey » 2 years ago

So...I just realized that Ghired's Belligerence can turn all our 1/1 tokens into copies of young pyromancer, Krenko, mob boss, or just mogg war marshal.

This should significantly increase the maximum possible damage output, especially if it's Krenko. I'm not sure if it's worth it.
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Kemba | Kytheon | Talrand | Unesh | Teferi | Geth | primer Zada | Krenko | Torbran | Patron Orochi | Ghalta | Gargos | Medomai | Lavinia | Silumgar | The Count | Xenagos | Nikya | Trostani | Athreos | Jarad | Kydele & Thrasios | Nin | Krark & Sakashima | Gisela | Feather | Osgir | Roon | Chulane | Sydri | Ertai | Mairsil | Prossh | Marath | Marisi | Vial & Ravos | Marchesa | Syr Gwyn | Riku | Riku | Animar | Ghave | Tasigur | Muldrotha | Rayami | Zedruu | Yidris | Kynaios & Tiro | Saskia | Tymna & Kydele | Atraxa | Akiri & Silas | Genju | Sisay | Ur Dragon | Golos | Horde | Najeela | Traxos

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lyonhaert
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Post by lyonhaert » 2 years ago

Crazy Monkey wrote:
2 years ago
So...I just realized that Ghired's Belligerence can turn all our 1/1 tokens into copies of young pyromancer, Krenko, mob boss, or just mogg war marshal.

This should significantly increase the maximum possible damage output, especially if it's Krenko. I'm not sure if it's worth it.
Yeah, just need to already have Twinflamed or Heat Shimmered and have some decent mana available, with potential for getting 2 damage for free. I'll take Chancellor of the Forge as a candidate, though. Just 1 or 2 extra copies of Krenko/Chancellor after the first instance of Twinflame/Heat Shimmer would massively increase the creature output of the following instances of those. And that's just if we directly target some 1/1 tokens instead of targeting Zada.

If we have any of the ones that make tokens on ETB duplicated as a token, we can just set X=1 and target Zada and turn every 1/1 creature already on our field into a copy of one of those tokens. I don't think Mogg War Marshal or Goblin Instigator would work - the populate target would have to survive 1 damage. The math of doing this with Krenko or Chancellor is gonna break my brain.

Another side effect is that it could make tokens that don't exile at the end of the turn based on Twinflame tokens. So it could even be used to build up for the next turn if unable to go off.

Four bloody good cards for Zada so far from this set.

I almost want to consider other ways of making a token copy so that with a few 1/1 tokens, a good token copy target, and a few mana Ghired's Belligerence could even function as a Twinflame/Heat Shimmer without having actually used one of them first.

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Post by Crazy Monkey » 2 years ago

We should be able to populate any token by sequencing the order of targets from the Zada trigger. My largest hesitancy is that Belligerence is useless without twinflame/heat shimmer.

I do really like that the tokens stay after the turn. It's worth testing.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of decent to great cards for us in these decks.
Commander Decks


Kemba | Kytheon | Talrand | Unesh | Teferi | Geth | primer Zada | Krenko | Torbran | Patron Orochi | Ghalta | Gargos | Medomai | Lavinia | Silumgar | The Count | Xenagos | Nikya | Trostani | Athreos | Jarad | Kydele & Thrasios | Nin | Krark & Sakashima | Gisela | Feather | Osgir | Roon | Chulane | Sydri | Ertai | Mairsil | Prossh | Marath | Marisi | Vial & Ravos | Marchesa | Syr Gwyn | Riku | Riku | Animar | Ghave | Tasigur | Muldrotha | Rayami | Zedruu | Yidris | Kynaios & Tiro | Saskia | Tymna & Kydele | Atraxa | Akiri & Silas | Genju | Sisay | Ur Dragon | Golos | Horde | Najeela | Traxos

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lyonhaert
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Post by lyonhaert » 2 years ago

It's too bad the "Whenever a creature dealt damage this way dies" clause will only apply to creatures dealt damage from that instance of Belligerence. Compounding that trigger for everything would have been hilarious.

There are other token copy making options in red, but most of them seem to be more mana intensive and don't trigger Zada. Feldon of the Third Path, Fellhide Spiritbinder, Flamerush Rider, Flameshadow Conjuring, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Kindred Charge, Mimic Vat, Mirror March, Splinter Twin, Mirrorpool, etc.

Splinter Twin seems one of the cheaper ones since we can easily grant haste. Mirrorpool has a c restriction and EPT but allows us to be selective.

And then there's Precursor Golem. It doesn't provide a token copy that on ETB makes tokens, but it does at least provide something else with those tokens in its trigger. Suppose we have PG, its two golem tokens, and five other 1/1s. If we have Zada we can cast Belligerence for 1rr and turn those 1/1s into golems and get even more of them once we can Twinflame or Heat Shimmer them (not targeting Zada). But even if we don't have Zada on the board we can cast Belligerence with a higher X to still turn some of those 1/1s into golems and proceed the same. FYI, I've been meaning to run PG as my "backup" Zada anyway once I get around to doing a rebuild (still need to acquire some cards before I can start that, such as Fists of Flame which I forgot in my last purchase).

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