When you first look at Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats as a commander, you might immediately try to think of how best to make use of the party mechanic to power out a hasty flying 4/4 for just two mana. Many, however, look a Zagras’s last two abilities instead, and put them to use in a crafty and very efficient way: with pingers!
“Pingers,” creatures that tap to deal one damage to something, are absolutely devastating with Zagras, as giving them deathtouch means even one damage is enough to kill any other creature (or planeswalker, thanks to Zagras’s final ability). ClassicGlassic has put together a deck filled to the brim with pingers and other creatures that deal damage directly, all of which are instant killing machines once Zagras is involved. Let’s have a look!
Commander: Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats Creatures 1 Fireslinger 1 Iron Myr 1 Leaden Myr 1 Ornithopter of Paradise 1 Sparksmith 1 Azra Oddsmaker 1 Blood Cultist 1 Cunning Sparkmage 1 Goblin Chainwhirler 1 Goblin Sharpshooter 1 Morbid Opportunist 1 Prodigal Pyromancer 1 Rakdos Ickspitter 1 Scalding Salamander 1 Vithian Stinger 1 Vulshok Sorcerer 1 Anger 1 Dagger Caster 1 Frostwielder 1 Jeska, Warrior Adept 1 Olivia Voldaren 1 Viashino Fangtail 1 Fury 1 Deathbringer Thoctar 1 Inferno Titan Noncreature spells 1 Demonic Tutor 1 Feed the Swarm 1 Mire in Misery 1 Night's Whisper 1 Reckless Impulse 1 Shenanigans 1 Sign in Blood 1 Jeska's Will 1 Light Up the Stage 1 Vampiric Tutor 1 Stinging Study 1 Everflowing Chalice 1 Jeweled Lotus 1 Mana Crypt 1 Mana Vault 1 Shadowspear 1 Sol Ring 1 Arcane Signet 1 Charcoal Diamond 1 Cloak and Dagger 1 Fellwar Stone 1 Fire Diamond 1 Grim Monolith 1 Lightning Greaves 1 Rakdos Signet 1 Star Compass 1 Talisman of Indulgence 1 Thornbite Staff 1 Thought Vessel 1 Champion's Helm 1 Sword of Fire and Ice 1 Worn Powerstone 1 Hammer of Nazahn 1 Fire Whip 1 Lavamancer's Skill 1 Power of Fire 1 Arcane Teachings 1 Black Market Connections 1 Lightning Prowess 1 Necropotence 1 Black Market Lands 1 Ancient Tomb 1 Arcane Lighthouse 1 Arid Mesa 1 Badlands 1 Blightstep Pathway 1 Blood Crypt 1 Bloodstained Mire 1 Castle Locthwain 1 Command Beacon 1 Command Tower 1 Detection Tower 1 Dragonskull Summit 1 Graven Cairns 1 Haunted Ridge 1 Luxury Suite 1 Marsh Flats 1 Polluted Delta 1 Prismatic Vista 1 Scalding Tarn 3 Snow-Covered Mountain 5 Snow-Covered Swamp 1 Strip Mine 1 Sulfurous Springs 1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth 1 Verdant Catacombs 1 Wasteland 1 Wooded Foothills
There are tons of pingers from over the years, and most of them… well, honestly most of them aren’t very good. The cheapest of the lot is Fireslinger, and he also pings you for one every time you activate him. Most pingers cost three, and as I say, there are a lot of them: Vulshok Sorcerer, Blood Cultist and of course the classic Prodigal Pyromancer. Once you give these creatures deathtouch with Zagras, however, they effectively become Avatars of Woe with “T: Destroy target creature.” Not bad!
But why stop at one creature? Inferno Titan and Fury can kill multiple things by dividing up their damage, while Olivia Voldaren gives you repeatable Doom Blades with her first activated ability. Best of all, however, are two of the other four-drops: as long as you have Zagras out, playing a Goblin Chainwhirler or Dagger Caster results in a straight-up Plague Wind, for just four mana!
This deck does contain some creatures who don’t have the ping ability, like Azra Oddsmaker, some mana dorks like Iron and Leaden Myr, and – of course – Zagras himself. For that reason, there is also a host of Auras that grant a ping ability, such as Fire Whip, Power of Fire and Lightning Prowess, so even after you’ve played your Goblin Chainwhirler, you can still ping and kill follow-up plays. Even without other creatures, turning Zagras himself into a pinger is huge – especially if you can get Champion’s Helm on him to gain hexproof.
Apart from all this, the deck is very streamlined: some removal, some card draw, some ramp, some tutors. This is a no-frills deck that does one thing and does it very well, and I can’t imagine it has too much difficulty absolutely dominating the board assuming Zagras sticks around. It might look like a gimmick, but deathtouch pingers are no joke – they’ll just kill everything, over and over again!