A lot of the new headliners in Commander Legends are pretty straightforward, but what happens when we take one of the less obviously focused ones and build around it? Well, the possibilities are all over the place! Today, I’ll take one of the Commanders from this new set and overlay a theme onto it that doesn’t jump out at you from the card but works really well once you figure it out. Well, even if it doesn’t work amazingly well, it’s fun and interesting. Let’s check out Zara, Renegade Recruiter!
Zara is very much dependent on the cards your opponents bring to the table, so it’s hard to say what the best way is to build around it. Depending on your outlook, that’s either frustrating or really fun. For me, it’s pretty cool – it means I can put any theme on top of this as long as it plays with Zara’s ability somehow. Zara is giving us creatures that aren’t really ours for a limited time – how can we exploit that? Well, I’ve got an interesting idea.
Let’s try out a Polymorph deck! It’s been a while since I played a deck like this, and I think it could be fun. The game plan is to take a creature from an opponent’s hand with Zara and then use that creature as Polymorph fodder. We don’t have infinite cards that replicate this effect, but eight is a pretty good deal and we’ll have ways to recur them. Proteus Staff sticks around for the long haul, while the rest vary in terms of number of targets or targeting at all as well as instant or sorcery speed.
We won’t always have Zara doing her thing, so it’s important to have some tokens to Polymorph. We won’t be playing any creatures that cost less than six mana in order to make Polymorph a hit all the time, so this is how we get around that. It’s a pretty traditional thing to do in decks like this, though I understand that putting “traditional” in a paragraph with Goblinslide above it is a little confusing!
A few ways to steal opposing creatures when Zara is not available should help smooth things over. Chamber of Manipulation is pretty strong in decks like this that take and sacrifice opponents’ creatures. I’d also play Overtaker too if it didn’t mess up the theme.
Zara is dependent on cards in your opponents’ hands, so bouncing important creatures and then taking control of them is one of the best play patterns available for her. Stolen by the Fae has the side effect of also providing tokens for Polymorph purposes!
Since we don’t have as many Polymorph effects as I’d like, I wanted to make sure we’d have ways to bring them back. Spelltwine is a pet card of mine and I play it at every opportunity and Experimental Overload shines here as it, like Stolen by the Fae, makes a token. There’s so much weird synergy in this deck!
Here’s a group of random one-off cards that don’t fit anywhere else. Gitaxian Probe can help give you intel on who to attack – I decided against Telepathy and Glasses of Urza but your deck list may vary. Kazuul’s Fury is a great way to use stolen creatures while also having that MDFC flexibility I love so much. Sakashima’s Will tends to have one useful mode at a time, but sometimes you just need Polymorph fodder. Finally, Strionic Resonator doubles up on the Zara trigger, which is very powerful in general.
Card draw is great in this deck, and I’ve mixed in some draw and some selection. It’s important not to have our hand get too clogged with creatures, hence the inclusions of See Beyond and Valakut Awakening. Cards like Drawn from Dreams and Silundi Vision help us find exactly what we need and Treasure Cruise is just a sweet burst of draw power.
Protecting Zara and giving her haste is important for some fairly obvious reasons.
This deck is going to be behind on board in the early game, so a couple of wraths won’t go amiss.
Spot removal doesn’t hurt and these offer a decent set of ways to handle opposing permanents.
Similarly, some counter magic won’t go amiss and Sublime Epiphany can do literally anything, so I put it in as kind of a utility knife card.
Mana rocks are sweet, and Midnight Clock is particularly great as it can refill our hand and shuffle our graveyard back in. That’s a surprisingly important factor here, as access to Polymorph effects and creatures to Polymorph into could dry up in the late game.
You’ll notice I keep talking about Polymorphing into things, but where are those things? What creatures are in this deck? Well, the most entertaining thing about Polymorph effects, from my perspective, is the surprise – I don’t have the same love for the constructed decks that have used these effects in the past to tutor up one specific powerful creature and crush opponents in a consistent way. With that in mind, this deck has a suite of 36 different creatures to spin its way into! Obviously those don’t all fit in the deck list, so I’m taking an approach I’ve taken in the past that was inspired by someone else a while ago: before the game, shuffle up your 36 creatures, then shuffle 12 into the deck sight unseen and begin play! That way, the result of your Polymorph will be much more surprising than they otherwise would. You could make this stack of creatures as big as you want, but 36 seemed like plenty to keep things fresh. Here are the creatures I’ve chosen:
The power level is all over the place, which can be fun, but make sure to modulate your own stack of creatures for the preferences of your playgroup. I’ve included the big Eldrazi because it’s nice to have a high top end and because you’re not getting the cast trigger value terribly often in this deck, but some groups might not enjoy them quite as much. I’d caution against making this stack too much smaller, because at that point, you should just build your deck with the creatures you like and call it a day. 30 is probably as small as I’d get, and beyond 45 cards or so the quality level drops off massively.
Here’s the full deck list (including all 36 creatures). If you have a deck like this or give this list a try, please let me know how it goes!
Commander Zara, Renegade Recruiter - Eric Levine
By the way, this weekend is CommandFest Online 3, where you can play Commander, or Commander Legends Sealed, against opponents all over the world and have a great time watching games and panels with your favorite Commander creators! I’ll be hosting in the evening on both days, so make sure you check it out. I’ll see you this weekend!