Earlier this year, Franck Da Silva piloted this list to the top 8 of a French Duel Commander tournament (http://mtgtop8.com/event?e=12318&d=271048&f=EDH). The deck is highly refined, putting staples and unusual cards to good use.
1x Sea Scryer
1x Æther Adept
1x Trinket Mage
Artifacts and Enchantments (7)
1x Chrome Mox
1x Mox Diamond
Instants and Sorceries (33)
1x Force Spike
1x High Tide
1x Mana Leak
1x Memory Lapse
1x Spell Pierce
1x Time Spiral
1x Time Warp
1x Wipe Away
1x Tolaria West
This deck’s strategy is very streamlined. There is really only one win condition – Laboratory Maniac. If Laboratory Maniac gets exiled, it’s extremely bad. At that point, the plan would be to protect a couple creatures or a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and hope that gets the job done. If Laboratory Maniac ends up in the graveyard, the only saving grace is Time Spiral.
Azami in combination with Mind Over Matter allows you to cycle through your whole deck, cast Laboratory Maniac, and tap it to win. You will always have access to Azami, but Mind Over Matter can only be retrieved by Time Spiral, so make sure when you cast it that you can immediately combo off, or that you have enough counterspells ready.
High Tide plus Palinchron produces infinite mana. High Tide plus Candelabra of Tawnos or Time Spiral produces a large amount of mana. Extraplanar Lens acts like a permanent High Tide. All of this mana allows you to cast the combo pieces while keeping counterspell mana up.
The whole deck is essentially just draw, disruption, and a handful of combo cards. The fact that the win condition cards are such a small percentage of the deck means that we have more room for draw and disruption. There are a couple tutor effects (Long-Term Plans, Trinket Mage), but the main way we find the combo pieces is through Azami’s draw engine. Every Azami commander deck has a Wizard package to generate card advantage, which really goes to show that the card’s draw ability makes the deck consistent and able to outlast opponents.
It’s great having your commander be a combo piece. You don’t need to be too scared when casting it, and it will almost always draw a card anyway. Including Azami, there are 19 Wizards in the deck. Azami makes Wizards with just a little bit of utility good. A lot of them don’t need any help though – Snapcaster Mage, Vendilion Clique, Venser, Shaper Savant. Patron Wizard is like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, sometimes even more annoying to deal with. Vedalken Aethermage is a 3 mana, instant speed tutor that finds almost any creature. Glen Elendra Archmage provides a sticky way to protect important spells, and you only need to hold up 1 or 2 mana to do so.
We’re running a few Time Walk effects. They’re amazing if Azami is out, but they’re also perfectly fine as Explores plus untap steps.
As far as counterspells go, trading one for one is generally good considering the deck’s reliable draw engine. Try to use soft counters like Force Spike earlier on than hard counters. However, they can still be backbreaking in the late game against commanders with high taxes on them.
We have four reliable 0 mana counterspells. Of course, they are great in a pinch to counter big threats, but most importantly, they protect the combo. You need to cast Mind Over Matter, Laboratory Maniac, and maybe Time Spiral, and opponents will always target them if they can.
If you enjoy playing counterspells and drawing a lot of cards, you’ll enjoy playing this deck.
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