Deckbuilding, for me, is a struggle between crafting both great gameplay and compelling narrative. Having built upwards of 200 different decks, this task can be frustrating, as it is not just about being creative, but also about doing something different – something that will not only surprise and challenge my friends, but also to keep me wanting to improve on my own designs.
This is where I began with Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith, turning a deck with seemingly obvious Commander implications into something unexpected.
I’m also a Robin Hood for the underrated legends in Magic. Of his pals in Feline Ferocity, Nazahn has been the least popular, and I believe the preliminary Nazahn deck data illustrates that ubiquity is the main issue. Nazahn isn’t much different in construction from the cat-focused Arahbo, nor as strong as his cat-equipment counterpart, Balan. This bond between cats and equipment not only make it difficult to make the decks very different, but also challenging to choose, and it is a battle Nazahn is losing right now.
Though more casual than competitive, Nazahn’s core competency isn’t just tutoring for 20+ equipment. One of the fundamental pitfalls of Voltron decks is that they tend to be too narrow. The overabundance of equipment, as well as overemphasis on their Commander, give opponents easy ways to disrupt our plan.
As a revered bladesmith, it is important for Nazahn to have more targets than just his own Hammer. At the same time, I didn’t want to fall into the Voltron trap, nor feel forced to play the Mirrodin–Scars cycle of Swords just because they were good. Again, Nazahn is a master of his craft. The things he makes should be special, and so I chose to with only the best of the best: legendary equipment.
The story in this deck is the same as the plan, and the same reason we’ve gathered every artificer, Planeswalker, and equipment-grabber in the Multiverse. Nazahn‘s showing off his skills, making all these awesome artifacts, and his colleagues are here to challenge him with everything they know!
After grabbing the Hammer, the plan is to combine our precious artifacts to fight. The main plan is to assemble the Kaldra pieces and attack. In conjunction with Nazahn’s tap ability and other powerful support and protection, it should only take a handful of combo steps to end the game.
While there are always cards we can add to make this deck more competitive, there weren’t too many sacrifices we had to make for more fun. Objectively, Conjurer’s Closet is the only compromise I had to make, and I think it’s a good rule break, as it provides many of our ETB creatures, including Nazahn, with so much additional support.
Many of the card titles have excellent thematic language consistent with typical deck functions and story considerations. Our ramp spells —Journey of Discovery, Cultivate, and Traverse the Outlands— are representative of not only the physical distance our artificers have traveled, but also synonymous with the path one goes to gain expertise. Other utility spells, like Verdant Confluence, help to demonstrate this meeting of fresh minds to learn new things, and it doesn’t hurt that all of its modes provide excellent synergy, whether we need to pump up a few Fabricate guys, ramp a little more, or get back some pieces of Kaldra.
Our creatures aren’t all weapon-makers, but the artificer tribal theme is uniquely cool for Green-White, and they actually help the deck in playability. Access to Fabricate and Splicer creatures make sure we will always have creatures to wield our equipment – or, worst case scenario, to chump block. While the best ones are tutors, like Stoneforge Mystic, Revolt triggers and creatures like Aviary Mechanic help us significantly to fill in the pockets of a game, where a little bit of value will do well to get in the way of aggressive decks.
Although Wrath of God and Day of Judgment didn’t feel related to this story, Fell the Mighty, Hour of Revelation, and Harsh Mercy are still excellent; the latter has a lot of potential against non-tribal decks, as “artificer” is not a common tribe. The spot removal is classic, but also consistent, kicking out unwanted guests at this secret gathering while helping us win in combat.
The Planeswalker support also provides some powerful advantage. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is on display with the Xenagos-killer, Godsend, while Ajani Unyielding just enjoys mentoring the pride. As a Lithomancer, it makes sense that Nahiri would want to make an appearance at a weapon-making expo, but as a bonus, she resurrects weapons that our opponents will surely want to destroy with artifact removal. With such an emphasis on special pieces of equipment, it is critical that we have ways to ensure we keep our most powerful relics around.
Naturally, every deck will have to go through some growing pains, but this is a really exciting one that ticks many of the boxes I had in design. It’s fun without being too goofy; powerful, but unlikely to be hated out. Its compelling story and quirky deck restrictions might warrant future revisions, but I hope for this deck to be around the kitchen table for years to come.
For most of his Magic-playing life, Aaron has been playing and writing about Commander. One of the few mono-colored players in a gold-bordered world, Aaron enjoys the challenges of creating meaningful, memorable games, as well as the excitement that comes with engaging underrated cards as he explores the format’s uncharted territory. A disciplined deckbuilder with over 200 lists to his name, Aaron has spent the past several years creating content about his favorite format.