This entry is part 5 of 13 in the series (Vexing) Devil's Advocate

378127_10150441621792624_1477312954_n“No,” Mario said firmly. “I am not playing against Zur the Enchanter again. He’s the douchiest of douches.”

“Why?” Luigi responded indignantly. “What makes him so bad?”

“He can tutor the best cards in your deck over and over!” ┬áMario practically roared back.

“And?” Luigi asked simply.

“And he let’s you fetch answers from a huge toolbox!” Mario continued.

“And?” Luigi repeated, a huge smirk forming on his face.

“And he is a win condition that goes and gets other win conditions! And what the hell are you smirking about!” Mario was spitting at this point, his facing turning roughly the same shade of red as his shirt.

“Nothing,” Luigi shrugged, looking unimpressed. “I’m just waiting for you to tell me what makes him bad.”

Ya, okay. So it's time to talk about this jack@$$.

Ya, okay. So it’s time to talk about this jack@$$.

Okay people, all cards (literally and figuratively) on the table with this one. I hate this son of a b!%&#. As soon as I see this guy drop in front of me I can feel my knuckles cracking from how hard I clench my fists. And when I look at whoever is playing it, all I see is a fun-less douche who only cares about winning. A heartless, boring, Esper-tutor-control playing Spike who should probably go back to legacy.

And the hard truth is, I’m the bad guy in that situation. Here I am making snap judgements on another human being because of what general they think is fun, just because I think the card is lame. This is the kind of attitude that I wrote this column to counteract, and here I am indulging in the same petty prejudices.

But I’m only human. I can’t stop myself from making mistakes, I can only repent for them. And since you’re as likely to find me riding a Phelddagrif as you are to find me in a church, I’m going to have to make my amends the only way I know how. By telling everyone else why I was wrong in saying the general is a un-fun win enabler, and making blasphemous and self deprecating jokes while I do it.

It's kind of like confession, except its a few hundred fellow nerds instead of a priest.

It’s kind of like confession, except its a bunch of fellow nerds instead of one priest.

In My Client’s Defence…

There’s a reason I made that crack about tournament players putting Zur the Enchanter at the head of their decks. Many players who come over from more competitive formats are drawn to Zur as general, but not because of a uber-competitive desire to win. His appeal is founded in two concepts that those deck builders are very familiar with : consistency and toolbox cards.

Many players who make the switch from standard (or modern, or legacy, etc…) to EDH are jarred by the singleton restriction of the format. When you make a sixty card deck, choosing how many copies of a individual card you play is a huge decision. It’s the best way of balancing your deck so you draw your favourite cards more often.

But in EDH, you don’t have this aspect of deck building. And while this allows us more room to try out new cards, it also makes drawing important deck pieces far less likely. This huge drop in consistency is a massive smack upside the head for some players, and the first instinct for many of them is to try and find a way around it. Then along comes a tutor-on-a-stick that you always have access to, who allows them to use Esper while promising to solve the singleton riddle forever. How could you say no?

You aren't the only old man making deals people can't refuse.

You aren’t the only old man making deals people can’t refuse.

For these players, sitting back and hoping you draw the card you need isn’t fun. When you realize that they don’t enjoy the inconsistency of singleton decks but still want to play a social and multiplayer format with their friends, it gets a lot harder to fault them. Especially when this general gives them access to such a ridiculous toolbox to play with.

Oh yeah, the toolbox. Tutoring for all those enchantments allows the Zur player to go fetch an answer to just about any situation. Removal? Cool, Oblivion Ring. Card draw? No problem, Necropotence is here. Want some voltron pieces? Steel of the Godhead to the rescue. The possibilities are only limited by what you threw into your deck, to be fetched up whenever Zur swings. So he’s a general that let’s you get all your tools, like a Swiss Army douche.

But as Magic players we all look to pack as many multi-use cards into our decks as we can. Zur players do it better, but we all like that Dreadbore hits planeswalkers as well as creatures. Hell, you only need to look at popularity of the command cycle or charm cycles to see that Magic players love having access to a toolbox. My theory is that we all secretly wish we were Bob the Builder.

And why wouldn't we want to be, look at that handsome devil.

And why wouldn’t we want to be? Look at that handsome devil.

He’s good, but Zur the Enchanter is not picked because he is some competitive god. He’s kind of like a safety blanket for players uncomfortable with the Commander, a general that is high impact and build around that is able to mitigate the blow of switching from one format to another. And once he is built, his unique play style and consistently good performance is a strong argument not to take him apart. Why would you take apart a flavourful deck that can work so well no matter what kind of hand you draw?

Kryptonite Rings and Silver Bullets

Now we get to the part where we give it back to Zur the Enchanter. And we’re gonna give it to him like a punji stake: long, hard, and possibly covered in diseases (for those of you unfamiliar with the Vietnam war, go ahead and google it. There, you learned something new today.).

A punji stake is a wooden spear that was sometimes covered in poop. Now that you've heard that, you can't unhear it.

A punji stake is a wooden spear that was sometimes covered in poop. People were stabbed with poop sticks. Now that you’ve heard that, you can’t unhear it.

Now I know I say this a lot, but I’m going to broken record it up anyways: general denial is one of the best ways to stop some of the more broken decks. Usually they are built to exploit some aspect of their commander’s abilities, and stopping a well tuned deck from accessing its commander is a real kick in the jewels.

In the case of Zur though, the deck just falls right the hell apart. If you stop your opponent from landing Zur the Enchanter or keeping him around long enough to swing, then you have effectively shut down their deck. There doesn’t tend to be a back up plan with him.

To this end, run your preemptive denial (Nevermore, Meddling Mage) , your spot removal (Terminate, Oblation, Spin Into Myth), and your counter spells (if blue is your Kool-Aid flavour of choice). Also remember that even if Zur has Diplomatic Immunity, you can still bury him with a Terminus or Hallowed Burial. If the Lethal Weapon series taught me anything at all, it’s that Diplomatic Immunity will not stop a frustrated guy from blowing you away.

Especially if that player happens to be too old for this $#!&

Especially if that guy happens to be too old for this $#!&

Short of being able to remove Zur, you want to shut his ability down. Stranglehold and Aven Mindcensor have also built up some frequent flyer miles on this column, but their ability to invalidate tutors (like Zur the Enchanter) is invaluable. It isn’t even just Zur. Higher level players end up looking through and shuffling their decks a lot, and stopping that wil make your opponents into the saddest of pandas.

I don't care if killing your fetch lands makes you sad. Go eat some bamboo and not breed some more.

I don’t care if killing your fetch lands makes you sad. Why don’t you go eat bamboo and not breed some more.

If you can’t stop the search trigger from resolving then you have to stop it from ever beginning. Prevent your opponent from using their combat step properly (Orim’s Chant, Sleep, Propaganda) and you stop them from ever using Zur. Pillow fort decks have been playing like this for years, so look to their cards for ideas on how to do this right. And if you are playing one-on-one, remember that you can run the vow cycle (from the Commander precons) to stop your opponent’s Zur or juice up your own guys like they’re Sylvester Stallone desperately trying to hold on to a dying career.

"My body is as natural as Pamela Anderson's, Eric. So screw you."

“Steroids? What are those? I have definitely never heard of anything called steroids.”

We, the Jury, Find the Defendant…

I still don’t like Zur the Enchanter. But I don’t have to, I just have to realize that there are legitimate reasons to play him. Some people just aren’t comfortable with inconsistency, or like to be able to try and find an answer to whatever trap they’re in at the time, and Zur is perfectly designed for that. And being able to tutor their enchantments lets Zur players run far fewer redundant effects, giving them room to experiment with new and weirder cards. And as EDH players I think that is something we all wish we could do more.

So I solemnly swear to henceforth stop attempting to publicly shame and ridicule Zur players, and let them play the deck they enjoy in peace. I also swear to always run my spot removal and burn Zur the Enchanter off of the board every time he rears his ugly head.

And remember, fellow Zur-slayers, they can only fetch enchantments with a converted mana cost of three or less. So they won’t be cheating Omniscience into play, thank Ulamog for that.

Why!? Why would someone think this was a good idea!?

At least until they find their Academy Rector. The b@$^@&%$.

When not writing (Vexing) Devil’s Advocate on, Eric spends his time desperately trying to make his Rosheen Meanderer deck run properly. I’M GOING TO MAKE TRIBAL HYDRA WORK, GODDAMMIT!!!

*Cough*. Pardon my outburst. If you want to chat about Zur the Impossible, or have some advice to give on a Rosheen deck, feel free to drop a comment below or send me a email at


Series Navigation<< (Vexing) Devil’s Advocate 4 – Infinite Combos(Vexing) Devil’s Advocate 6 – Group Hug!? >>