Shape Anew – Hoodie Tribal with Lazav

(Lazav, the Multifarious | Original Art by Yongjae Choi)

What’s Under the Hood?

Greetings, fellow EDH addicts. Welcome to another iteration of Shape Anew, where we will create a decklist around super popular commanders, but must use at least 40 cards not featured on their EDHREC main page! Different strategies are explored to find original strategies for these popular commanders. This month, it’s time for none other than:


The Deal of the Art

A few articles ago, I wrote about gimmick decks. These decks are constructed with self-imposed rules to make deckbuilding more challenging and interesting. Although they tend to be on the lower side of competitiveness, they are an excellent way to find cards you’ve never considered before. Some of these self-imposed rules include constructing a deck around card names, or specific mana costs, or aspects of a card’s artwork. Today, we’re building around the latter.

I was first introduced to art-based deckbuilding by the now infamous Chair Tribal deck at Commander VS, focusing on artwork that features chairs. I really liked the concept! However, I quickly found out how few decks like it exist, and how hard they are to make yourself. It is perhaps easiest to choose your art theme around something related to humanoid creatures or combat, since those depictions are the most prevalent in the game; you can select only art that features certain weapons, left-handed characters, people with facial hair, looking in specific directions, or wearing special clothes. I was wearing a hoodie during that discovery, so it’s only natural that hoodies are the direction I went with.

Once you choose a theme, you can get big joy out of small discoveries in the artwork. Did you know Jace has a hoodie, but barely ever wears it in his artwork? Did you know that people on Innistrad wear a lot of hats that look like hoodies, but rarely ever are? Did you know that Dimir’s dress code seems to be “Everything’s fine, as long as you’re having a hood”?

For “hoodie tribal,” Lazav, the Multifarious is the master of them all. The current hoodie count on his EDHREC main page is not that high, although higher than I initially imagined. Cards with the keyword Surveil are apparently quite hoodie-heavy. Many decks with Lazav at the helm use cards like Vector Asp to combo off, but we won’t do that here; his ability works perfectly fine without a very tuned combo package. Instead, our posse of people whose faces are slightly obscured by a thin bit of cloth over their head will sneak our way to victory!

Before we dive in, I’d like to make a few side notes about an art-based gimmick deck that you might encounter both in this articles, as well as real life, when you inescapably make one yourself:

  • There are multiple ways to define your chosen theme. For example, when is something a hoodie? I excluded Ninja masks and the like, but I could see others disagreeing with that restriction.
  • Sometimes art is hard to see. I’ve mistaken many a hat or hairstyle for a hoodie (like Notion Thief), and I’m sure I’ve either missed some cards that should or added some cards that shouldn’t be in this deck. My bad.
  • There’s a LOT of art. I’ve scoured resources like Scryfall and Gatherer, but it can be tricky, particularly for reprinted cards that have multiple pieces of art (some of which may even be automatically linked here in the article! Our images are taken from the most recent printings, so if a card looks hoodless, it may be included int he deck based on a different printing).

Jace Beleren

The poster child of Magic, the mind mage with no memory, the hoodie-bearing prodigy: Jace. Even though the actual number of planeswalker cards we could play is regrettably low, we’ve got access to Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, arguably the best versions of the planeswalker (or any planeswalker for that matter) we have.

The popularity of Jace has made him appear on many a card. His Signature Spellbook really helped with this challenge. Unfortunately, cards associated with Jace are also associated with milling, which is hardly helpful in this deck. Jace’s Mindseeker, for example, is only added for its value, and not its synergy with Lazav.

That brings me to an important part of gimmick deckbuilding: decisions are sometimes difficult. A limited card pool sometimes result in a choice between a card that’s actually good, a card that fits the deck’s synergies, or a card that’s better on-curve. These choices are far more extreme than they would be in other decks, and with my very limited testing I would never dare to say I’ve found that sweet spot yet.


Specters

Specters are part of the reason I chose hoodies as our theme. It’s just an excuse to add in a small Specter tribal section. How do they perform in the deck? Well, it has amazed me how often flying grants the possibility to damage at least one opponent. Several hits by a Specter can cause some serious disruption. They also offer a fine target for Lazav to clone, and to continue the discard train.


Sneaky Peeps

Hoodies indicate stealth. That’s what this challenge really taught me. That stealth is very welcome, because it can help Lazav get through and hit face. A Whispersilk Cloak works better than his current garb. In some cases we can even give other creatures, like our beloved Specters, some helpful unblockability. Last Thoughts provides card advantage when we do.

Sometimes though, stealth isn’t depicted by being unblockable or hard to block, but just by being Dimir-affiliated. Blood Operative and Disinformation Campaign prove this. Hoods are such a staple of Dimir artwork that I’d almost be willing to bet that if these cards didn’t depict a person wearing a hoodie, they wouldn’t bear the guild watermark in the text box! In any case, these Surveil synergies really work well with our commander; the overall quantity of Surveil cards with a hoodie leaves something to be desired, but even with just one activation, I think both of these cards are worth a slot.

Of course, we can’t forget Lazav’s previous iteration, Lazav, Dimir Mastermind. Well, unless he wants us to, of course.


Wizards

Blue mana associates hoodies with Wizards. Although it hoods are a common trope in fantasy, I wonder how much their prevalence has been influenced by the popularity of Jace. Anyhow, it supports this deck wonderfully in several ways: first of all, it provides us with some much-needed control elements. Arcane Denial (yes, the m25 version has a hoodie… I think), Fact or Fiction as the blue all-star, and Mind Control. All of these have been true staples throughout Magic’s history, which also mean all of them have multiple pieces of artwork.

A second, much need synergy with our commander can also be found in some wizards: discard. Thought Courier, Magus of the Bazaar or Disciple of Deceit show this. They can assist the cloning of Lazav and make sure the right creatures hit the yard at the right time. There’s even some synergy with From Under the Floorboards and Welcome to the Fold.

The last thing wizards contribute are a few pieces of card advantage. Arcanis the Omnipotent is awesome for this. When it eventually hits the graveyard, it can even serve as a possible layer of protection for Lazav. There’s also some synergy with spells with Archaeomancer or Murmuring Mystic, even if those spells are fairly limited.


Death

Black mana associates hoodies with death. Death is Magic is often associated with the graveyard. Lazav does stuff with our graveyard. That’s great! The synergy almost seems to extend to the artwork. The graveyard synergies are enforced by the small discard theme provided by the wizard. They make it even easier to reanimate something spicy with Dance of the Dead or Rescue from the Underworld.

An apparently death can put creatures in graveyards. Both our own, with Moonlight Bargain, as well as our opponents’, with an Asphyxiate. And of course, death can bring them back. Wretched Confluence is a, in my opinion, truly underplayed card. Especially the instant speed gives us the opportunity to hold up mana for Lazav’s ability.


Lands

Who’d have thought that cards with hoodies on them generally don’t generate mana? Ramp is especially to accomplish on a theme, but there’s more utility not covered by people with a specific clothing style. It’s best to limit your art-based theme to the nonland cards. That way, utilities like ramp can be utilized by the lands: cards like Terrain Generator, Myriad Landscape and Temple of the False God.

But there’s more. Ghost Quarter for (nonbasic) land destruction. Bojuka Bog and Scavenger Grounds for graveyard hate. Several lands meant to help us fix our mana. If we wouldn’t limit our gimmick to just nonlands, we would put a big strain on our ability to make a playable land. Even now, without essential parts like ramp, we can see our deck suffer.

The last lands-related note is actually hoodie-related as well, concerning the basic lands: remember the Jace-is-lost land cycle from Ixalan? It’s not always clear if Jace is actually wearing his hoodie, but it is as close as we’ll get to comply to our art demands.


The Lists

I love gimmick decks. The amount of cards I was able to (re)discover thanks to my intense Gatherer searches was, if I do say so myself, not too shabby. Even in the future, with new set releases, I’ll be scouring the artworks on new cards for those hoodies. This gimmick interests me in another feature of Magic cards. And that’s awesome.

These 48 nonland cards in the deck don’t appear on the EDHREC main page:


Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

I won’t pretend this deck is good, but it is playable. Even if you’re a more competitive player, it’s always nice to have a deck on hand that can joust with those friends that are newer to the game, and don’t own that $1000 deck yet. It’s very visually pleasing to take out another player with an army of hoodies, and even if the fun doesn’t last, the cards are either dirt cheap or used in numerous decks.

The Wrong Neighbourhood

Commander (1)
Jace (8)
Specters (6)
Sneaky Peeps (13)
Death (20)
Wizards (16)
Lands (36)

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer


Your Turn

Apart from hoodies, there’s an infinite number of art themes that are feasible for constructing a Commander deck. Sometimes, the properties of artwork are even recognized in Magic card: any silver-bordered set has a few art/artist-matter cards. One very recent one is Goblin Haberdasher. Even though it’s officially not legal in Commander, most playgroups tend not to mind. “But where do I find artworks with hats?” Just like I found lots of hoodies in the Dimir, I advise looking for the hats of the Rakdos.

Goblin Haberdasher

So, for those interested, here’s an interesting challenge:

“Design a Commander deck around Goblin Haberdasher.”

I am very interested to see what you can come up with. If you have any result you’d like to share, you can send it to my via twitter or reddit (@ellogeyen and /u/ellogeyen). I’m open to any comments and discussion regarding the content of the article as well.

Next month, we’ll be visiting something very flashy! See you then!

Willem-Jan is a true Melvin; nothing is more beautiful than the mechanical interactions of the card on the battlefield. The scarcer the better. His favourite interaction? The one where he beats his opponents. Willem-Jan can be found on twitter @ellogeyen