I love sets that introduce new Commander options at uncommon – usually that means the set has a ton of options available, and that’s definitely the case for Streets of New Capenna. One of the uncommons caught my eye right away as a fun build-around, and while this deck won’t be rocketing up the power level charts, it’ll be fun to play. Today, I’m building around Queza, Augur of Agonies!
There are two potential problems with building around Queza. The first and most obvious is that, if you just pack your deck full of draw effects, you’re not really doing anything, especially if Queza isn’t on the battlefield. The second is what I call the Nekusar Problem where you just play a bunch of wheels and anyone trying to craft a game plan over multiple turns probably doesn’t have a ton of fun. So how do we avoid this? Well, we could build Queza as a cycling deck, but I’ve done cycling before. In my set review, I mentioned pairing Queza with cards like Read the Runes that draw cards in large quantities on the cheap – let’s try out some serious draw/discard spells and then find ways to take advantage of the discards!
Here’s my plan in more detail:
- Use looters, draw/discard effects, and efficient draw spells to sculpt our hand and trigger Queza.
- Play effects that let us cast cards we discard, draw them later, or otherwise benefit from the discard.
- Back up Queza with other effects that give us bonuses when we draw cards.
- Use effects that trigger when we gain life to amplify Queza’s trigger.
- Keep Queza on board with a few counterspells and cheap protective effects.
Let’s get started with our core group of looters!
Enclave Cryptologist eventually turns into an Archivist – you can choose to leave it as a looter if that benefits you more, though. Merfolk Looter and Bonded Fetch are traditional Looters, with the Fetch’s increased mana cost offset by its haste. Looter il-Kor requires you to attack, which can make the timing awkward, but it’s a cheap looter, and I can’t really turn that down.
Ledger Shredder is really heating up across various formats, and Commander is no exception – this card is the real deal in basically any metagame. Champion of Wits is the kind of card you don’t mind discarding so you can use the eternalize, and Forgotten Creation just lets you self-wheel in your upkeep if you feel like it.
Compulsion is another fantastic repeatable looter, and if it’s getting destroyed or you no longer need it, you can just cash it in for a card.
I’ve included seven one-shot draw/discard effects here. Tolarian Winds was a late cut in favor of Ancient Excavation as an effect that’s both more powerful and more flexible, but I could be convinced to find a cut for the Winds in a future version of this list. Read the Runes and Ideas Unbound were the cards that inspired this list, and alongside Careful Study, Faithful Mending and Frantic Search, they provide some solid value at a low cost. Faithful Mending is another card that’s great to discard when you don’t need to cast it right away! Breakthrough is also worth talking about – if you’re not really attached to your hand, or your hand is empty, you can just get a bunch of triggers for a single blue mana.
I tried not to put too many draw spells that didn’t actually accomplish much into the deck, but these five are solid on rate. Brainstorm getting three draws for a single mana goes quite well with Queza, and we have enough shuffle effects and looters to push those cards elsewhere instead of Brainstorm-locking ourselves. Night’s Whisper and Painful Truths have their life loss offset by Queza, and all the discarding we’re doing will feed Treasure Cruise nicely. Sphinx’s Revelation is just nice to have in the late game, frankly.
Speaking of discarding, where are those synergies I was talking about? Well, good news: we’ve got 12 cards that care about discarding.
Bag of Holding doubles as a repeatable looter, and Toluz gives us a single draw/discard off that connive trigger, but both hang onto our discards for a later return to our hand. Both have some risks, but the payoff is great, and frankly, if our discards never return, so be it.
These two skip that whole process and just let us cast our cards when we discard them. Oskar leaves them in the yard but makes us cast them right away, whereas Containment Construct lets us exile them and potentially cast them any time over the rest of the turn.
These are some of my favorite discard synergies – just pay a little bit of mana and you’re off to the races with some life drain or filling the sky with drake tokens! Costing mana does make these a little harder to use with the larger draw/discard effects,
These discard triggers range from the most minor to seriously major. Scry 1 may not seem like a lot, but when we’re looting as much as we plan to, Curator of Mysteries should have a solid impact. Feast of Sanity can attack life totals or act as removal when we’re doing a lot of discarding. Archfiend of Ifnir is a fantastic way to deal with wide boards – imagine casting Read the Runes with it on the board! Bone Miser can turn discards into amazing amounts of value – imagine discarding a noncreature, nonland card and getting more draws! All-Seeing Arbiter is a great late game play that impacts the board and can seriously shrink key opposing creatures.
This is a high-ceiling card in this deck – discard a bunch of cards all at once and you’ll get a ton of value out of Shadow of the Grave! Sometimes you won’t be getting too much value out of this, in which case discarding it makes sense.
But how do we get value when we draw cards if Queza’s not around? We have six cards that help accomplish that! Chasm Skulker, Oneirophage and Toothy all grow to enormous proportions as more cards are drawn, with Chasm Skulker easily being my favorite of the three. Psychosis Crawler is one of my pet cards, but it costs enough mana that if you cut it, I’d understand (especially if you just didn’t tell me.) Ethereal Investigator provides what I’ll generously call chump blockers, while Ominous Seas gets us some creatures with the ability “enormous” to help out in the late game.
I also threw in two draw-doublers to amplify all of our draw effects. Even if we end up discarding to hand size, that’s fine – we have all those good discard triggers!
If someone you know draws too many cards, split the difference and get a draw of your own! This isn’t just a defensive play here – the additional draws help keep the triggers rolling.
I wanted to find ways to turn Queza’s trigger into a wider-angle attack, and these cards do just that. Epicure of Blood just costs too much for me to want to play it, but these four made the cut. Vito and Sanguine Bond will let you spread things out or go deep on hurting a single player, whereas Blight-Priest and Cliffhaven Vampire spread the life loss around (while still doubling up on the initial target of Queza’s trigger.)
This card is pretty unbelievable in a Queza deck. Draw a card, resolve your Queza trigger, and then Well of Lost Dreams triggers. Pay one mana, then draw a card from the Well… and you’re back to another Queza trigger. Seems fun, right?
These are three great one-mana ways to protect Queza (or another key creature), each doing things a different way. Shield counters, phasing and hexproof all work better in different scenarios, though it’s likely you’ll just be using one that works whenever it happens to be necessary. I don’t recommend discarding these if you don’t absolutely have to – while the deck can certainly work without Queza, it doesn’t work as well.
A couple of unconditional counterspells won’t hurt.
Some additional interaction here, both in the form of point removal and some wraths. Damn could be either – it’s up to you! Farewell is such a strong card in Commander that it’s starting to become one of my default wrath effects.
Mana rocks! I’m not 100 percent sure if I want Thought Vessel here or if it should just be Fellwar Stone – we may want to discard to hand size in this list. I would have to play quite a few games to figure that out, I think. For now, I’m erring on the side of Thought Vessel and, consequently, Reliquary Tower.
A solid set of utility lands here. We have the three lands from NEO that just add some special effects to the mana base but often just play as lands, some solid interaction in Bojuka Bog and Ghost Quarter, the aforementioned Reliquary Tower and a couple of special stars. Command Beacon helps us keep Queza on the battlefield more often, while Cephalid Coliseum works wonders with Queza around as a draw/discard effect. Threshold should be easy to hit in this list!
Four trilands help us with our mana in this list, as while we’re fairly blue-focused (57 percent of our colored mana symbols in costs are blue), we will need consistent access to white and black. I stopped short of Path of Ancestry since I thought another ETB tapped triland would not really help much.
A wide complement of dual lands here, with five having basic land types for our fetches. I threw in some painlands to help out in the early game and a Sunken Ruins to help us cast our double-black spells more consistently.
Finally, some basics round things out! Having done some goldfishing, I think this is a solid deck for moderate power level tables, but it’s certainly possible the balance of how many draw effects vs. payoffs is a little off. Here’s the full list – see you next time!
Queza, Augur of Agonies by Eric Levine