Hayes1 (1) @Hayesthehayes here again for another issue of “Let’s Kill” where we dig into the little known red warlord, Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs!

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Burn, Baby!

This Kazuul build, primarily structured around burning opponents to death, is one that has challenged the way that I build Commander decks. When I first started playing EDH I hated the degenerate decks of the format and thought that playing blue was the only way to keep myself in the game. This led to more long games and salt in people’s veins.

What I like about this deck is that it is both a control deck and a combo deck with what I feel are not degenerate pieces of material. Usually the deck wins with burn to the face supported by doubling effects like Furnace of wrath so that the burn effects scale with the higher life totals in Commander.

When I was building this deck I had burn on my mind: I wanted to build my first non-creature deck in awhile. When I was researching who to lead my burn deck I boiled down my list to the following candidates:

Zo-zu the Punisher

For a lot of people this is the guy who pops into your brain when you think of group burn. His iconic ability to burn you for landfall triggers has harassed many opponents. I didn’t choose him because he seemed too annoying and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to defend myself if people started attacking me because of the minor amounts of damage they were taking. I will say though that Zo-Zu has become better with the reprints of the Onslaught Fetchlands; because they are more financially available to players people are more apt to take “5” damage for their land drops as apposed to the normal 2. Zo-Zu made it into the 99 for me.

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight

This card screams the type of strategy you are trying to play. It is also very hard to cast. In games where I’ve seen other people play it they usually only cast it once and then the game is over. There are lots of games where they don’t even get to cast it because the game either ends to quickly or when they can cast it they would have to tap out and pay a huge opportunity cost to the cards that are in their hand.

Heartless Hidetsugu

This guy also falls into the screaming camp. He’s combo-rific if you can adjust your life total to an odd number and get a double damage enabler onto the field. I didn’t play him as my general because of the hate I would receive. He made the 99 though.

Keranos, God of storms

I’m probably going to try this guy at some point, but I was unsure about how strong I wanted the blue in my deck to be. Keranos has some strong ‘draw’ power and can kick damage to the face. But I wanted to stay mono red, I was afraid that it would start to get difficult to splash evenly with red and blue when I was trying to resolve cards like Furnace of wrath.

Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs eventually was the choice because of his ability to defend. His presence as commander doesn’t really signal that there are shenanigans going on; just that I don’t want to be attacked. Even if people attack me I usually get dudes to block with. Sometimes I don’t even block and untap to cast a double damage effect or two to finish the game with 3/3 ogres that are dealing 6 or 12 damage each.

Turn down for WHAT

Kazuul burn wins through two primary channels: People killing themselves or by getting burned out with a big spell, with or without the help of a damage enabler.

Effects like ManabarbsBurning EarthAnkh of Mishra and Zo-Zu the Punisher all punish everyone at the table for playing magic. Eidolon of the great revel, a burn deck staple in modern and legacy, slots right alongside Pyrostatic Pillar in punishing players for playing mana efficient decks. I especially like these cards because you can build your deck to minimize the amount of times you hurt yourself. Because we have Kazuul, we don’t have to worry about people being overly aggressive towards us as we poke damage at our opponents.

The main cost of playing this type of strategy is that your cards don’t scale as well as other decks. If we were playing a creature strategy then we could play buff effects or creatures that gave us passive benefits when our opponents interact with us. We only have two major options: use damage enablers and draw cards.

The double damage family is one full of spice. It gives the Kazuul burn deck an extremely large double handed sword; there have been many games where I play a double damage effect and another player is able to capitalize off it way faster than I can. Knowing when to up the ante and give the entire table access to double damage makes or breaks the game. Usually you only want to do it if you can immediately follow up with Kazuul or if you have a burn card that you can hold as insurance (see: Price of Progress).

The double damage family includes: Furnace of wrathdictate of the twin godsQuest for pure flame and  gratuitous violence.

To be greedy and draw cards we have things like: Mind’s eyeStaff of nimTrading Posttemple bellloreseeker’s stonehowling mine and voltaic key. These draw enablers along with the occasional double damage enabler get us to where burn wants to be: doing math.

Math is hard

This type of strategy is all about math. Since our archetype only employs a handful of support creatures the primary pressure we are putting on our opponent is on their life total. This means constant risk assessment and asking yourself how far you are willing to go in order to possibly untap into your next turn and topdeck burn for the win.

We have mana rocks, we have card draw. Sometimes we have enchantments that double damage. How do we win?

Damage, of course! As a burn deck it may seem that our options for finishers are limited but there are actually a lot of ways we can go about going for the big W.

Incite Rebellion

For those of you who haven’t seen this new red commander card from the 2014 set it is a defensive and offensive house. It is good against swarms of creatures and if you have a double damage enabler it can easily kill everyone else. Even if it doesn’t kill your opponents it can sometimes put them low enough that your incremental damage cards will finish them off.

Stuffy Doll and Repercussion

These two cards are the bread and butter of the double damage plan win conditions. The way their rules text is worded it allows any damage you put into the cards to gain an additional increment of doubling. For example: if I Blasphemous Act on my Stuffy Doll while there is a furnace in play the Doll will take 26 damage through the first doubling iteration and then its triggered ability will deal 52 damage to the chosen player. Repercussion does the same thing, just to everyone instead.

Thieves’ Auction

This card takes a long time to resolve as it takes a long time to read. It is good in this deck because the furnace of wrath, manabarbs and anke of mishra effects are global and it doesn’t matter who owns them. So you cast Thieve’s Auction hoping to trade some of your global cards for other good stuff on the field. Also note that you get to pick first. This card is hilarious with a Vedalken Orrery out on the field.

Insurrection Steal the game. GG no re.

Fireball

Devil’s Play A better fireball

Price of Progress Dare I say anything at all?

Support Weapons

While we have a good host of finishers, incremental damagers and mana rocks the support cards are what really make this deck run. Its what makes it non-degenerate: there isn’t a correct set of cards that make the deck run at maximum efficiency.

Some cards hose creature strategies. I’m looking at you Blasphemous Act. These sort of cards (Chain ReactionVolcanic Fallout) all wombo combo with our beforehand alright finishers of stuffy doll and Repercussion but they are pretty bad against decks with no creatures or very few creatures. So understanding what your metagame environment consists of is important so that you don’t draw dead too often.

Cards like Basilisk collar and Loxodon Warhammer are incredible in this deck. Sure, they can nombo-combo with a Sulfuric Vortex out on the field, but otherwise you can ram damage with Kazuul to keep your life total high. These cards are especially funny with Eidolon of the great revel.

For opponents who run non-creature decks I highly recommend Avarice totem. It can stall the game out to a point to where you can burn everyone or it can get you a critical steal for the win. If you have a ton of mana to dump you can stack the ability in a way that you can give your opponent a mountain while you take one of their toys. This only works if they don’t have 5 mana up.

Sensei’s Divining Top and Scroll Rack seem modestly lackluster in this deck. Sure, the manipulation is good but I don’t like it that these cards are not proactive in themselves. Also if I don’t have a fetchland then my cards are “locked” on top and I can’t shuffle them away. I’d rather have an artifact that drew me cards or provided mana.

I am a turtle

Walking Atlas has proved to be a monster in this deck. He accelerates my mana while allowing me to play sneaky tricks with cards like Glacial Chasmvesuva and Thespian stage.

I like these cards because they provide ways for me to dodge death so I can topdeck burn for the win. I used to run platinum angel and Platinum Emperion but they always got spot checked.

Planeswalkers

Planeswalkers are an additional level of support for this deck. Leading the team I think Daretti, Scrap Savant takes the cake. I don’t even care if his ultimate goes off; ditching two dead cards in my hand to draw two more is so gross that I’m fine with him only surviving a turn.

Chandra, Pyromaster is almost as good; you just have to be way more aggressive in using her 0 ability. This is one of the few cards I like with Top and Scroll Rack because you can filter the top of your deck as apposed to just rearranging it.

At the end of the line is Koth of the hammer. Games where he comes out earlier with no pressure on the board to kill him usually end up with me taking the gold. He’s good at dumping a lot of mana early for a quick combo kill and if you activate his ultimate it is difficult to lose.

Another layer that the planeswalkers bring to the table is how they make your opponents decide who to attack. Sometimes I’m ok with my opponent attacking my walkers; it means they aren’t coming at me! Other times I even choose to redirect the incremental damage I take from my own permanents to the planewalkers so I know that I’m not going to randomly die to an unseen threat. The walkers are good, but Koth is the only one worth risking your neck for. Don’t forget that Kazuul’s token making ability also applies to your planewalkers!

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this run down of the Kazuul burn archtype! Follow me @hayesthehayes, and come back to Commandercast soon for another Let’s Kill!