With the release of Guilds of Ravnica, the Dimir guild grows ever more mysterious. The more we learn about them, the more and more elusive they become. Though we all know and love Lazav, Dimir Mastermind and his Jaqen H’ghar impersonation, this faceless man has changed his identity once again, now sporting the title Lazav, the Multifarious.
A succinct two-mana commander, Lazav has shifted his scope from his enemy’s graveyards to his own. How do these changes affect this Dimir guildleader’s strategy and deck composition? Let’s take a look!
We’ll begin with the commander we know. Lazav, Dimir Mastermind is a color-intensive four-drop with natural hexproof and the uncanny ability to reshape his identity. Whenever an opponent’s creature hits the graveyard from anywhere, whether they’ve been milled or killed, Lazav can assume their form while retaining his name and shrouded composure. Lazav has enjoyed a top spot among Dimir commanders for quite some time. With 1,057 decks to his name, he’s presently fourth in line behind Phenax, God of Deception, Gisa and Geralf, and The Scarab God. This is fitting for the Dimir, of course; lay low, so no one sees your master plan until it’s too late!
The commanders in front of Lazav do provide an interesting counterpoint to his distinct strategy. Though all four of these commanders enjoy filling up graveyards, Gisa and Geralf and The Scarab God provide an intense focus on creature-based gameplay, while Phenax, God of Deception devotes himself more thoroughly to a mill strategy, decking out his opponents by emptying their libraries. Lazav, meanwhile, is caught somewhere in the middle of these two blue-black focuses.
At his core, Lazav loves to see his opponents’ libraries whittle away, because every creature card milled is a new opportunity for him to adjust his costume. However, he also wants to maintain an imposing board state by becoming an amazing creature. Too great a focus on mill distracts from the fact that he could become an Avacyn, Angel of Hope or a Gisela, Blade of Goldnight and bash face.
So how does this divided focus affect Lazav’s deck construction? Let’s take a look at an Average Lazav Deck, as configured by data here on EDHREC.
Simply put, Lazav cannot copy enemy commanders. Unless an opponent willingly allows their commander to hit the graveyard instead of returning it to the command zone, that creature never ‘dies,’ which puts it out of Lazav’s reach. Thus, Clones are here to shore up that restriction.
Alongside all the copycats are the graveyard-based cards we’d expect. Consuming Aberration, Sword of Body and Mind, and Mind Grind load the yards up with teeming piles of dead creatures to be Body Doubled, Extract from Darknessed, and Rise of the Dark Realmsed back into play. Quintessential reanimator strategies are extra-special with Lazav, because he can become a copy of a milled creature, then revive that same creature for twice the effect! Since Lazav is already in play and simply changes form, he won’t get any enters-the-battlefield abilities, which makes revival and cloning such a keen strategy.
Even more importantly, Lazav retains his own name and abilities. If you mill a legendary creature, Lazav can become a copy of that legendary creature, and you can still Animate Dead it onto your side of the battlefield to get an additional copy. He’s like a Helm of the Host in your command zone. Combined with his persistent hexproof and a smattering of Disallows and Insidious Wills, he’s exceptionally well protected.
To make a long story short, the original Lazav is exactly what you’d expect from a blue-black graveyard strategy. He certainly has the option of focusing on mill as a win condition, but it’s much simpler to fill graveyards up and pilfer through them with Diluvian Primordials and friends. Lazav is practically a Dimir version of Gonti, Lord of Luxury, and a true expert at playing his opponents’ cards.
So how does the new Lazav, the Multifarious compare? In a supremely un-Dimir twist, there’s really no secret. The new Lazav doesn’t give a hoot about his opponents’ graveyards. He has eyes only for his own pile of discarded treasures, even allowing you to Surveil 1 when he arrives on the scene, to help get the ball rolling.
Our new Lazav is half the cost, which is important. Though he’s lost his natural hexproof, the smaller cost is much, friendlier to your mana base, which is also its own form of protection. Even on the second cast, he’s easier to cast than the original Lazav, who requires double blue and double black. This new version lets your mana base breathe, and allows you to play more colorless-producing utility lands without fear of missing your colors and failing to cast your commander on time.
Finally, this Lazav is more freely able to change his shape at will. His old self had to remain on the battlefield and personally witness an enemy creature hit the graveyard before he had any effect. Now he only requires a little mana, and he can shift around as many times as you like. The key is to find ways to fill your own graveyard with fun targets.
Luckily, black and blue are full to the brim of excellent ways to fill not only their enemy’s graveyards, but also their own. Buried Alive and Entomb are particular standouts, but Final Parting and Corpse Connoisseur are also impressive.
So what creatures will Lazav be changing into? Let’s take a look.
This is not your typical reanimator deck. The Mimeoplasm and Meren of Clan Nel Toth like to dabble with their own graveyards quite a bit, but very few of the black spells used in those lists show up here. Instead, the focus is on the unique sequences you can enact with Lazav’s abilities – almost like he’s Mairsil, the Pretender.
While some graveyard decks like to pluck the biggest baddies from the grave, Lazav wants creatures with extremely low mana costs. By turning into a Vector Asp, using his new activated ability to give himself Infect, then turning into the 12/12 Phyrexian Dreadnought (and avoiding its crummy enters-the-battlefield effect) he can wipe out any player in a single turn. Don’t forget, Lazav can also activate this ability at any time. You can make him into an unbloackable creature such as Dimir Infiltrator, wait until your opponents have declared blockers and let Lazav through, then switch him back into a huge beater for tons of damage.
Yeah. That’s nutso. Even though Lazav doesn’t have his hexproof anymore, that doesn’t mean he can’t protect himself. Path to Exile aimed his way? Suddenly he’s the untargetable Invisible Stalker. Damnation about to land? Now he’s Bontu, the Glorified, completely indestructible. If your opponent is about to swing at you with a 20/20, transform into Phyrexian Obliterator and dare them to attack you.
Oh, and we can’t forget how combo-tastic Lazav is, either.
If Lazav becomes a copy of Necrotic Ooze, he gets all activated abilities of all cards in graveyards. So if you have, say, Bloodline Keeper and Grimgrin, Corpse-Born in play, you can tap to create a creature token, then sacrifice it to untap your commander and give him a +1/+1 counter as many times as you want. All you need to do now is swing for lethal! Luckily, Lazav keeps his counters even if he changes into a new creature, so you can make him unblockable and deal a killing blow with infinite commander damage in no time flat. (Or you could just remove all those counters with Triskelion’s ability too.
In short, Lazav and Lazav have almost nothing in common. While they both share a name and a love of identity theft, their focuses lie in entirely opposite directions. The original Lazav fills graveyards en masse, playing with his enemy’s toys. His games will likely go long as he takes the time to protect himself, mill his opponents, steal all their best stuff, and clone the crap out of them. By contrast, the new Lazav only wants to fill his graveyard with a few specific objects, instruments of precision that he’ll use to knock out his enemies as swiftly as possible. One will cheat big things into play for cheap, and the other will arrange devastating combinations. That’s the Dimir guildleader for you; no matter what, he’s not going to play fair.
Let’s finish up by discussing a few key cards you should take an extra-careful look at when brewing either of these dastardly commanders.
Lazav, in his most Dimir tendencies, is certainly keeping us on our toes. One moment he’s stealing from everyone else’s graveyards, the next he’s using his own. Though these commanders do not have much in common aside from their colors and lore character, they both bring exciting dynamics to the table, forcing your enemies to stay on their guard, lest they fall prey to an unforeseen and shadowy maneuver. Go forth, fellow agent, and obtain victory for House Dimir!
Oh, and don’t forget to vote for the commanders you’d like to see on the next Commander Showdown!
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Til next time!