Azorius Basterds

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I told you last week I was going to write about the cards likely to be in the Azorius deck so we could sell them if necessary or at least be thinking about cards likely to pair with them that have low reprint risks. The good thing about this is that it’s essentially a thought exercise to move the really obvious stuff. Anything subtle won’t matter as much because the prices won’t likely move that much and selling and rebuying usually isn’t all that worth it unless the price is going to move a lot. Basically what we’re doing is preparing for the decks to come out and recalibrating our expectations based on what we saw with Commander 2015 since I expect Commander 2016 to be a lot more similar to that than it will be to Commander 2014.

I was thinking “Why did I commit to write this stupid article in May when the set won’t be out until October? What was I thinking?” and I almost concocted some excuse to get out of writing it this week. Isn’t it way too early to be thinking about this stuff now? It took me about an hour of procrastinating coming up with a new topic to realize that there is no such thing as too early. We’re predicting based off of no information, remember? We don’t even have the spoiled Kalemne like we did last time to tell us that there were going to be things called “Experience Counters” and also that Boros was going to be hot garbage because Boros is always hot garbage.

Seriously, why does Boros always suck? It doesn’t even make sense flavor-wise. Gruul is the knuckle-dragging, cave-painting, feces-throwing throwback group and their slogan is “Not Gruul? Die!” but when you ask them “Hey, what do you as a clan do?” they have a good answer. “Me am so glad ask. Gruul smash monster with big club and make die. Gruul am also big mana rampy big monster time. Gruul am best clan landfall and burny face and Gruul monster am has best power and toughness to casting cost ratio for big smashy smashy. Mostest trample. Bestest haste. Most spell punish with Ruric Thar and Vexing Shusher. Not Gruul? Eat a $^%” If you ask Boros the same question, the answer is something like “We at Boros like to either attack with soldiers or put equipment on our soldiers before we attack with them. Either way, really. Sometimes we attack with angels¬†and soldiers.” Boros sucks. “Am carry tree branch for use as wand. Am important to keep it touch with deep Gruul Shamanic tradition pass down 100 generations. Why Boros no have Shamans?”

Barring any sweet spoilers (If someone else spoils it, it’s a spoiler. If you get it early and you’re asked to be the one to reveal it, it’s called a preview. Brainstorm Brewery got to preview Fevered Visions. It was a way better preview card than most of the other spoilers) we don’t know much about Commander 2016 except what we know that the last few weeks I’ve assumed we’re getting the ally-colored decks and we’re operating under that assumption. So yeah, Gruul are the stupid cavemen of the Magic world but they’re still richer and more interesting than Boros. But let’s spend the rest of our limited time together for the week talking about Azorius because I said we would do that last week and I made a really lazy pun for a title but if I change it I’ll have to come up with another lazy pun and just because it’s lazy doesn’t always mean it’s easy. I can’t be making up all kinds of pun titles all day willy nilly. I’m sticking with the pun which means I’m sticking with the title and that means sticking with the indicated subject matter.

Who’s Your Azorius and What Does He Do?

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That’s sort of legible, right? If not, here’s the wiki page I got it from. You may recognize it from being linked by me on a weekly basis.

Azorius has fliers, things with flash and like, birds and wizards and shit. It’s pretty cool, I guess.

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Before I go into what I think is going to be in the decks, a brief aside. I’m up at like 6 AM EST, usually writing this article and that means it’s like noon or something in the Netherlands so Sander Van Der Zee is always tweeting at me while I’m writing. He mentioned that it was possible we’d see either a flicker theme or subtheme. I didn’t really think that was the case and I’ll get into why in the next paragraph. For now, though, let’s stick to what I was talking about.

You know what, no. Let’s start that next paragraph right now and address why I don’t think we’ll see too much flicker. First of all, they did it already. The Evasive Maneuvers precon featured Roon, Derevi and probably some terrible dragon (I don’t remember and I don’t care enough to google it. I spent over a minute trying to find the name “Evasive Maneuvers” because when I google “Derevi precon” the results that come up are other people calling it the Derevi precon because that’s how few shits anyone gives about the name of a precon) whose name I don’t remember because all I can remember is the name Arcades Sabboth but I know that’s not right. Arcades Sabboth was terrible. Nicol Bolas and four turds, that’s what that cycle was. Anyway, they already did a pretty heavy flicker theme there. There were great cards for it and Derevi has been terrorizing people since, although he got banned in French because he’s just that annoying and linear.

I think a subtheme is pretty unlikely because Azorius has unique attributes and it can stake a claim separate from what Bant was up to by emphasizing some of its core strengths like flying creatures and really stupid, clunky counterspells like Overrule. Some of the best creatures to flicker are green, although Brago is a fine commander in his own right. If there is a flicker theme or subtheme like Sander thinks, I expect Brago to be the third commander.

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I’m graphing the $14 foil here because the $1 non-foil is boned if it’s reprinted but the foil could have upside if people play it more. Brago is shown in the literature for Conspiracy 2 getting shanked in the neck, but that doesn’t mean he’s not in the set which means there is a slight reprint risk for the foils if you ask me. This is basically an all-downside scenario. If Brago isn’t in Conspiracy 2: foil hat boogaloo, the foil could have upside but only if Brago is in Commander 2016. I think that is an unlikely convergence of realities.

Sander could be right and there could be flicker in the deck, but I’m banking on Azorius doing something new which means we have to look at what it actually does.

Flash and Flying

Luckily I think there is a card in real need of a reprint which is decent in EDH, fits the theme of a deck like this and which would be a good candidate for the new price-point for reprints, which is quite a bit lower than the $47 or whatever Wurmcoil was at when it was reprinted in Commander 2014. They’re not doing one big, huge reprint like that, or at least they didn’t in Commander 2015, preferring a lot of $8ish cards. That being the case, there is still a card that needs more printings and is afforded the perfect opportunity by an Azorius deck in Commander 2016.

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Bliggedy BLAM. This seems like a slam dunk reprint. The price isn’t quite out ¬†of control like it was during its $15 days, but then you need to try and remind yourself that this is a freaking uncommon. Are there even loose boxes of this set laying around anymore or is everyone playing the foil ‘Goyf lottery? I remember being upset I had to pay $4 for one of these at a GP. It’s an uncommon. But “It’s an uncommon” isn’t a good defense for Modern cards anymore. Inquisition of Kozilek is uncommon, too. Uncommon is the new chase mythic. Or something. Look, this is an $11 card and it would be a good inclusion in the precon if there is a flash/flying theme or subtheme. Azorius likes making them not able to do stuff and this stops stuff. The only issue I worry about is that it may seem slightly dead in a precon-on-precon matchup since they likely don’t have a ton of ways to search the deck so that may disqualify this. It feels a little “off” in that respect, but diminishing demand coupled with any amount of reprint risk makes me think you might want to look at offloading these if you have any, no matter how slight you think the reprint risk may be.

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This guy has mostly recovered from the Modern Masters reprinting and is at or around the right price point for inclusion in the deck. This is a staple in Brago decks if you believe that subtheme is possible, but this is also a decent flier that rounds up other fliers in its own right. This is a possibility whether or not flicker is a factor.

If they go deep on fliers and put a ton of birds and Kangee, Aerie Keeper in, we don’t have to look at lists very hard to see it won’t matter much. The new cards will matter financially, but there is basically nothing in the current Kangee builds of consequence. Like, the most expensive card outside the mana base is Battle Screech from Judgment which got popular during Legacy Masters drafts online and people wedged it in the cube (I guess?). Like, Adaptive Automaton is expensive and that’s basically it. I am not even graphing anything from this contingency, that’s how little it matters. I mean…

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This, maybe. Did you ever in a hundred years imagine this was more than like a buck? I get these in bulk rares all the time. If there is a flying theme or subtheme, this seems likely to be in there. It’s slow but it scales nicely with you slowly amassing a ton of flying dudes and just smish smashing their face with a flyin’ lion. Seriously, they’re the pride of the clouds because they’re a pride of lions. In the clouds. They’re elementals. Some elemental zephyr wanted to manifest itself as something fierce so it chose something that doesn’t even fly because that’s how lame most sky creatures are. There are more geese featured on Magic cards than Tarmogoyfs. Let that sink in.

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I don’t know at what point this stops being speculation and starts being a wishlist, but this is a great inclusion in a deck with fliers. It’s a little harsh, but it’s also pretty easy to deal with, even by precon deck standards. Not only that, there is precedent for reprinting Magi in the Commander decks with Magus of the Wheel, Arena, Vineyard and Coffers already seeing print in Commander precon sets. I’d like Magus of the Tabernacle but this will do fine. It’s cheaper than a real Moat although not as good. Oh well, this has a shot at being in the precon and at $6ish currently, players won’t mind the price relief. Solid inclusion, should they actually include it.

There are some fringe possibilities like a heavy artifact/enchantment theme but recent Daretti and Daxos decks sort of lean toward ruling that out. This deck likely carves out a unique niche and gives us some new toys that play well with old toys. There isn’t much money to be made an lost if it’s a deck where they reprint Hanna, Ship’s Navigator (which isn’t on the reserved list though Orim and Eladamri are) and there is some sort of theme there since they can’t reprint Replenish, etc. All the cards we really want to see like Venser the Soujourner are too clunky to print. Most likely, we’re getting a sweet deck with lots of flying creatures and some new cards that will be very good commanders to build around and include that theme. It’s not the only possible outcome but it seems like the most likely. We’ll know more when cards are spoiled but for now, consider getting out of the riskier stuff and think about what pairs with it. Once it’s ruled out as a reprint, you’ll be ready to buy while others are still discovering the synergy.

Next week we’ll talk about some other color combination. Probably Dimir, I guess. Do you think it won’t be a ninjas/unblockable thing? Do you think it will be mill? Got any other wacky ideas? Bounce them off of me and we’ll see what we come up with next week. Until then!

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6 thoughts on “Azorius Basterds”

  1. None of these are terrible things to buy/sell, but you’re spending an awful lot of time pruning leaves on a tree that hasn’t even sprouted yet, aren’t ya?

  2. No restoration angel mention on the basis that you think they’ll avoid flicker?

  3. If Brago is confirmed not to be in the upcoming three reprint sets — and my guess is that he won’t be in any of them — I like him as a pick-up. The card is almost 2 years old now, and the non-foil chart is just starting to turn upwards in terms of both tcgmid and buylist. In addition to play as a commander, his “in the 99” number is decent.

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