Introduction

Hello everyone and welcome to my Lazav, the Multifarious Commander Primer. I have built the deck in October 2018, when Guilds of Ravnica was released. Since then, the list has gone through some major changes and refinement (see the Update section), and the build you see here is very likely to be updated in the future as powerful new cards are printed. The core of the deck, however, is well established and will remain intact. This build is the result of almost two years of testing with my own playgroup, which is extremely mixed. I have played Lazav against dozens of different decks, the majority of which were highly optimized (commonly known as 75% decks). In addition, I have done a lot of research to find the best possible synergies. As a result, I have decided to write a primer for the deck. Nobody in the EDH community has given Lazav the merit he rightfully deserves, so hopefully this will be a helpful resource for those of you who are interested in building a deck around him. Here you will find a brief overview of how the deck plays, while specific card choices are explained in the appropriate sections of the primer.

After seeing Lazav's activated ability, many of you may immediately think about creatures with powerful, value-based effects like Arcanis the Omnipotent, Doom Whisperer and Grave Titan. This, in my opinion, is not the right way to build Lazav. Let's take Arcanis the Omnipotent, for example. His ability to tap and draw 3 cards looks tasty, but copying him would cost six mana. If the Arcanis-Lazav gets removed (and he will, since spending six mana likely means we can't hold up counterspells to protect him), we have to copy it again and spend even more mana because of the commander tax. This is too big of an investment for a card that doesn't win us the game. All these expensive creatures also work perfectly fine on their own, so Lazav wouldn't add anything new to them. The number of creatures is another issue that I have found in various lists. I have seen people playing more than 35 creatures, which seems insane to me. I think we would be better off playing just a handful of key creatures and many tutors to fetch them. As you shall see later, we are a toolbox/combo deck. This means that we need a combination of a few key creatures in order to win the game, so including more would be a waste.

Another common mistake that I have seen during the first months of brewing is building Lazav as a reanimator deck, and as a Meren of Clan Nel Toth player this hurts me a lot. I will go over the reasons why Lazav isn't a good reanimator commander in the Commander section, where I will talk more in depth about him.

After discussing how not to build Lazav, in my opinion, let's have a look at how I have built this deck.

This is a VOLTRON deck. This means that our one and only win condition is dealing combat damage with our commander. Of course, we are not attacking with a 1/3. The goal is to turn Lazav into one of our key creatures (a 12/12 Phyrexian Dreadnought or a 7/7 Hunted Horror, for example) and then connect with an opponent.

That's it.

This strategy may seem very fragile and boring, but I assure you it's the exact opposite. First and foremost, we can work with Lazav's ability according to our needs. We can transform him into a Cavern Harpy to save him from removal, or into an Ornithopter to give him evasion. This can all be done at instant speed, so it will be extremely entertaining and satisfying. In addition, this is the place where some of the format's underdogs like Phyrexian Dreadnought and Wall of Blood can finally shine. Overall, we have an incredibly powerful commander at our disposal, capable of winning the game on his own really fast. What we need is multiple ways to protect him and our strategy from disruption and we are fine. That's why the rest of the deck, apart from our creature toolbox, is almost entirely dedicated to protection and tutoring. Protection primarily comes in the form of countermagic, and all the tutors will make sure we always have everything we need at our disposal. With so much redundancy, all the games we play will likely develop in the same way. This makes the deck extremely consistent and competitive if you live in a 75% environment.

This was just a basic introduction. The following sections will deeply develop each single aspect of the deck.

I have organised this decklist into custom categories so that it will be easier for you to understand how the deck works. All the categories are self-explanatory, but here's a brief description of each one of them.

Mana

The resource we use to cast spells and use Lazav's ability. Although our mana curve is very low and our commander is cheap, we still need access to as much mana as possible to activate his ability multiple times. I feel like 40 mana sources, between lands and mana rocks, is ideal.

Loot/Tutor

These cards are extremely important and are what makes the deck consistent. Loot spells will help us cycle through our deck as well as fill our graveyard with the creatures we need. Tutors will directly give us access to the best cards in our deck.

Wincon

Our win condition is our commander, but he can't win the game as a 1/3. These are the creatures we need to copy to threaten lethal damage.

Evasion

Since this deck wins by dealing combat damage, we need ways to sneak under our opponents' blocking creatures. These cards will help Lazav connect with an opponent by giving him relevant keyword abilities like flying or shadow.

Protection

This deck relies on a single creature to win the game, so our goal is to protect our commander from removal and our graveyard from exile effects. Protection mostly comes in the form of countermagic, but we do have a few creatures that can save Lazav if he manages to become a copy of them.

Countermagic

Counterspells will help us interfere with our opponents' game plans and, most importantly, protect our commander and graveyard from disruption.

Removal

These spells will help us remove the most dangerous permanents at the table.

Utility

These cards grant us various benefits, from card advantage to mana discount.

Dimir has always been amongst my favourite colour combinations, but until now it lacked a commander that could promote an interesting, unique approach. If we take a look at the EDHREC's page for Dimir, we can see that there aren't many different styles of gameplay. The two strategies that seem to be supported the most are mill with Phenax, God of Deception, Lazav, Dimir Mastermind and Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker, and zombie tribal with The Scarab God, Gisa and Geralf and Grimgrin, Corpse-Born. While these two strategies can be fun, I don't think they are too competitive. Then we have a couple of generals that are best suited for competitive, combo/storm strategies in Oona, Queen of the Fae and Dralnu, Lich Lord. Apart from that, we have the outsider Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow who's best decks feature a lot of consecutive extra turns to deal as much damage as possible with the ninja's ability. As a voltron general, I think that Lazav, the Multifarious can offer a different approach to these colours.

As Dimir mages, we can count on some of the best control tools in the whole format. Black gives us access to powerful creature removal, both single target and mass destruction. In addition to that, the strongest tutors in EDH all happen to be black. As for Blue, there isn't too much to be said: having access to counterspells is extremely important in Commander because they can protect us from almost everything. Besides, Blue is arguably the best colour in Magic in terms of card draw. Our win condition is our commander, therefore Blue and Black are "just" support colours for us, and they excel at doing so.

All that glitters is not gold, however. The Dimir combination has its flaws, particularly in two areas: ramp and non-creature removal. This is clearly due to the lack of Green for ramp and to the lack of White for non-creature removal. Although we can compensate the absence of Green by including as many mana-rocks as we desire, missing White hurts a lot because we really struggle against opposing artifacts and enchantments. Black is completely powerless in this case, while Blue has a little bit of an edge in the form of bounce spells. This can only get rid of the permanent momentarily, but it is still better than nothing. For this reason, I strongly recommend including a decent number of bounce spells like Into the Roil and Blink of an Eye in any Dimir deck.

In Commander, Voltron is a strategy based around a single creature, the commander of the deck. Rule 903.10a states:

A player that’s been dealt 21 or more combat damage by the same commander over the course of the game loses the game. (This is a state-based action. See rule 704.)

In order to do that, voltron players often include many auras and equipments like Shield of the Oversoul and Loxodon Warhammer to buff their commander’s stats and give it useful abilities like hexproof or indestructible. This way, they are able to reach that 21 damage threshold faster and safer. Usually, voltron generals aren’t just big creatures, but ones that already have some relevant keyword in their text. Let’s have a brief look at some of the most popular choices: Zurgo Helmsmasher, Sigarda, Host of Herons, Uril, the Miststalker and Bruna, Light of Alabaster. Zurgo has a base power of 7, which is extremely important because it represents a three-turn clock. In addition to that, he has haste and indestructible. Sigarda has evasion and protection, plus an ability that makes her immune to the bane of voltron decks: edict effects (the likes of Diabolic Edict). Uril has built-in protection and the ability to grow in power the more auras he gets. Lastly, Bruna has evasion and is resilient to aura hate.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of this kind of strategy? Let’s start with the upsides, because there aren’t many. It is undoubtedly faster to kill an opponent with 21 damage instead of 40. Because of this, lifegain decks like Oloro, Ageless Ascetic really struggle against voltron decks as their life total doesn’t matter at all. Unfortunately, that’s it. Voltron strategies are often extremely linear and fragile, and that’s why they don’t see too much play in competitive environments. If a player’s only gameplan is to kill everybody with a single creature, then that player is very vulnerable to disruption. I have already talked about how good edict effects are against voltron. A voltron player often has a single creature on the field, therefore a sacrifice triggers will force them to get rid of their commander. Also, sacrifice effects are particularly good because they don’t target (thus getting around shroud and hexproof) and because they don’t care whether the creature is indestructible or not. These kind of effects are quite popular in commander because they are often attached to recurrable creatures like Fleshbag Marauder, Merciless Executioner and Plaguecrafter. When a voltron commander eventually gets removed, rebuilding becomes very hard and tedious. The biggest downside of playing voltron is, however, its slowness. I have said that dealing 21 points of damage is faster than 40, but that’s true for one opponent. Voltron generals can’t kill the whole table at the same time, but instead have to focus on a single opponent one at the time. In the meantime, the two other players have plenty of time to set up their defences. Besides, no current voltron general is able to oneshot a player on its own. They need lots of auras and equipments and even with those, they are very unlikely to deal 21 points of damage in a single turn. They need 4 (at their worst) to 2 (at their best) combat steps, provided nothing bad happens (e.g. removal or inability to get through blockers). This means that, in order to kill the whole table, a voltron player needs something like 15 turns. Keep in mind that this scenario is even unrealistic, because it would mean that every other player would be sitting at the table doing nothing. On average, Commander games are much shorter. The whole voltron strategy is suboptimal, because it is much more efficient to instantly win the game with an infinite combo instead of jumping though all these hoops. Until now, there weren’t too many reasons to play voltron at all apart from mere fun.

So, how does Lazav, the Multifarious fit in this scenario? And why is he so much stronger than the other voltron choices, so much so that he can finally make this strategy viable in a competitive environment? Let’s first compare him with the other generals I have mentioned before. He is a 1/3, which is significantly weaker in terms of pure stats than all the other voltron generals. His ability, with an empty graveyard, does absolutely nothing. In addition, he doesn’t have any keyword. He doesn’t have protection, nor evasion. Actually, on his own he is just a 1/3 with no effects. Still, he has what every other voltron general lacks: flexibility. With little effort, we can turn him into a real killing machine. With the right setup, we can make him bigger than any other voltron general. We can make him unblockable, indestructible, untargetable. As long as we have mana available and the right creatures in the graveyard, we can do whatever we want with him. This makes him much more resilient to disruption than the other choices, and even more powerful in terms of mere stats. And don't worry, having that right setup will be very easy with the way I have built the deck. Another thing that makes Lazav shine compared to all the other voltron generals is its fast oneshot potential. As we shall see later, there are multiple combos that make Lazav able to kill an opponent in a single turn as early as turns 3 to 5, and this shortens our route to victory by a lot. On top of that, I would like to emphasize Lazav’s extremely low mana cost, which makes him the cheapest voltron general available. His 2 CMC allows him to enter the fray very early and makes the commander tax less of a problem. Overall, Lazav is cheap, fast, flexible, resilient, powerful and in the right colours. All of this makes him the best voltron general available in the format, in my opinion.

Lazav, the Multifarious costs only for a creature with two relevant abilities. In my experience, commanders with such a low converted mana cost are often very powerful in EDH if decks are built around them. Some examples are Baral, Chief of Compliance, Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons, Karlov of the Ghost Council, Rhys the Redeemed, Saffi Eriksdotter, Sram, Senior Edificer, Thrasios, Triton Hero and Zurgo Bellstriker. All of these decks base their strategy around their commander, and they can afford to do so because those creatures cost 2 or less mana. This means that, if they get removed, they can be cast again for a reasonable price. The same is true for Lazav: if he dies, the next time he costs 4 mana. He dies again and costs 6 mana, which is still less than some commanders' initial casting cost. The fact that he can come into play very early in the game also means that he can start attacking as early as turn 3 if we want. As we shall see, we are capable of knocking an opponent out by turn 3 or 4, and that's thanks to Lazav's low CMC. His base power and toughness aren't so relevant, since we will change them as soon as we can. Another thing to note is that he is a shapeshifter, but this is just his creature type: do not confuse that with changeling, which is a keyword that only some shapeshifters have. As a result, Lazav won't be of any creature type, unlike Shapesharer and Mothdust Changeling are. This may sound obvious to a lot of people, but some of my opponents didn't realise that during my first games with this deck.

But let's discuss his abilities, which are very unique:

When Lazav, the Multifarious enters the battlefield, surveil 1.

While this isn't game-breaking by any means, it is nonetheless a nice ability to have "for free". To surveil 1, we look at the top card of our library and then decide whether we want to leave it on top or put it into our graveyard. This effect is very similar to scry, but for us it's better because we need creatures in the graveyard to fuel Lazav's second ability. Having the option to mill a key piece with a surveil trigger is a nice bonus. And even if we don't hit a creature (which is likely, considering we have only 13 in the deck), we can still sculpt our next draw. We can get rid of spells if we need mana, or mill lands if we need gas. Considering we have a guaranteed surveil on turn 2, we can also consider keeping sketchy opening hands because we can basically dig one extra card in our deck. Surveil is useful, but we don't need to dedicate other slots of our deck to it. Loot spells and tutors will serve us better, as they are more reliable. The only reason we play Lazav is his second ability, so that's why I consider his surveil 1 a nice, added bonus.

: Lazav, the Multifarious becomes a copy of target creature card in your graveyard with converted mana cost X, except its name is Lazav, the Multifarious, it's legendary in addition to its other types, and it has this ability.

The whole deck is built around this ability. Let's start by saying that this is not to be confused with reanimation: in Magic, reanimating basically means getting a creature back from the graveyard to the battlefield with a cheaper spell or ability. A basic example can be casting Reanimate on a dead Sheoldred, Whispering One. This differs from Lazav in two, drastic ways: first of all, we are not putting the creature back to the battlefield. It is Lazav that becomes a copy of the chosen creature, so he will already be on the battlefield. This way, any enter the battlefield (ETB) effects won't trigger (we will come to that later). Secondly, and most importantly, we are not saving any mana when we use Lazav's ability. The best thing about reanimation is that we can cheat a creature with a very high CMC into play a lot earlier than normal thanks to a cheap spell like Reanimate or Animate Dead. This is definitely not the case with Lazav, because we have to pay the full CMC of the chosen creature to copy it. Filling our deck with Sheoldred, Whispering One, Razaketh, the Foulblooded and Grave Titan simply won't work. We need a way to break his ability, in the same way that a turn 1 Reanimate breaks Sheoldred. Remember when I mentioned that ETB effects won't trigger with Lazav's ability? Over its history, Wizards has printed a few creatures with insanely high stats and extremely cheap mana costs. To compensate that, they gave them atrocious ETB effects that made them literally unplayable in every format. The best examples are Phyrexian Dreadnought and Hunted Horror. As I have said, their ETBs won't trigger once Lazav is already on the field. This way, we can take advantage of their low CMC and have a 12/12 Lazav for just or a 7/7 Lazav for . From that spot, what we need to do is just protect our general and keep attacking every turn. If we want to save him from removal, we have Invisible Stalker or Cavern Harpy. If we need evasion, we can copy an Ornithopter or Nether Traitor. It's important to note that Lazav doesn't exile the creatures he copies, so we are free to transform him from one creature to another as many times as we please, as long as we have mana available. The fact that we can do this at instant speed is just the icing in the cake. This makes him really hard to deal with for our opponents.

In order to use Lazav's ability effectively, we need to understand how the Combat Phase works. It is divided into five steps:

  1. Beginning of Combat Step: the initial step of the Combat Phase.
  2. Declare Attackers Step: the step where creatures may be assigned to attack.
  3. Declare Blockers Step: the step where creatures may be assigned to block.
  4. Combat Damage Step: the step where combat damage is calculated.
  5. End of Combat Step: the final step of the Combat Phase.

What's important to know is that we (and our opponents) can interact with each step by casting instants and activating abilities. This is crucial because we will usually be shifting form more than once during a single combat phase to adapt to the board state.

To explain you how this works, I will give you a practical example:

We have Lazav on the board and Phyrexian Dreadnought and Invisible Stalker in the graveyard. Our opponent has enough creatures to block the 12 trampling damage. We will pay to turn Lazav into the Stalker and then move straight to combat. We will attack with the Lazav-Stalker, which is now unblockable. The opponent can't block, so he or she will skip the declare blockers step. Once we move to the combat damage step, we hold priority and pay to transform Lazav into the Dreadnought. The declare blockers step is over, so Lazav hasn't been blocked, but he will deal 12 points of damage instead of 1 during the combat damage step.

Another common line is the one that involves haste. If Lazav is affected by summoning sickness, we can pay to copy a Banehound and then swing with it. Again, before damage is calculated we are free to change form and copy a bigger creature.

These are just some of the tricks that we are able to do with our commander, but there's plenty more. Lazav is extremely powerful, but I can't stress enough how much fun and unique this playstyle is.

First things first: this deck is extremely skill intensive to play. A single mistake can cost us the whole game, as loosing Lazav too early or having our graveyard exiled at the wrong time is something we can hardly handle if we are not prepared. It would take too much time and effort to rebuild from that spot, so we want to avoid that from happening in the first place. How do we do that? By not overextending and by trying to leave mana open as much as we can. How does this translate into practice? We need to play a bit off-curve with this deck. Oftentimes, playing Lazav on turn 2 is not the right move because we would leave him vulnerable to removal. Instead, we should wait a couple of turns so that we have more mana available to protect him. Knocking a player out on turn 3 may look tasty, but there is no need to rush: we have plenty of game even in the mid to late game. Patience is key with this deck. We must plan our next turns in advance and strike when our opponents' shields are down, or when we have a Fierce Guardianship available. Another useful tip is not to show our intentions too early. A base example can be not putting Phyrexian Dreadnought in the graveyard before we can use Lazav to copy it. This would otherwise put a huge target on our heads, and everyone would be on the alert from the beginning. Instead, we must try to be as Dimir as possible: hide our plans, sneak in the shadows and be ready to strike when no-one expects. We can do almost everything at instant speed, so we must take advantage of it. Another thing we shouldn't do is dump every win condition into the graveyard all at once. We must stick to a game plan and follow that route until we either win or get disrupted. If we decide to go for the Phyrexian Dreadnought kill, we just go for it without committing any other resource. If something wrong happens (for example, the Dreadnought gets exiled from our graveyard), then we can go for another plan and start throwing other stuff into the bin. This way we will always have a win condition available.

We have three one-shot combos at our disposal with Lazav, listed from best to "worst":

1. Phyrexian Dreadnought + Vector Asp for 12 points of infect damage with trample. With a total mana cost of , this is our most efficient way of killing an opponent. Who needs Blightsteel Colossus?

2. Crackdown Construct + Ornithopter for infinite damage in the air. The total mana cost is .

3. Wall of Blood with either Vector Asp or Banehound for as much damage as our life total can afford. With the Asp, the mana cost would be and 9 life. With Banehound it would cost and 20 life, but we would be gaining the HP back upon connecting. In case we don't have any of those creatures available but we desperately need to kill an opponent, we have the option to just pay and 21 life into the Wall. This comes in handy when we are left 1vs1.

These are just the one-turn-kill combos. If we don't have all the pieces available, we can simply attack with Lazav as a copy of Phyrexian Dreadnought or Hunted Horror. They represent a two-turn clock and a three-turn clock respectively. It's less ideal because it would give our opponents more time to find an answer, but so much damage for such a low mana investment is nothing to scoff at.

Being a voltron deck, we can’t kill everyone at the same time. Instead, we need to do the dirty work and kill each player one at the time. We should always focus the most dangerous player at the table: the one who’s more ahead in the game, the one who’s about to combo off, or even the one who’s more likely to interfere with our game plan (for example, if we suspect somebody is about to cast a Rest in Peace on their following turn). If a player poses a threat, the best way to deal with it is directly removing that player form the game. Our other opponents may even see us as heroes (just for a few seconds, though). Once we have killed our first opponent, things start getting more complicated. The two remaining players will start panicking and will see us as the next major threat (and for good reason). They know they are dead should me manage to untap. This is when Lazav probably gets removed or our graveyard gets exiled. If we can prevent that form happening, good. If we can’t, it’s not the end of the world as we can rebuild. Lazav’s low CMC helps a lot in that regard and we can use other tutors to refuel our graveyard with another win condition. Once we have only a single opponent left, we shouldn't have any problems winning the game as this deck shines in 1vs1.

A strategy that has given me a lot of success is doing absolutely nothing for the first five/six turns of the game. I just sit at the table drawing a few cards and representing countermagic even if I have none. I don't even play my commander until the mid game. This way, my opponents won't see me as a threat and will focus their attention on somebody else (that one player who always starts with a Sol Ring followed by a Signet followed by a Rhystic Study). Having to personally kill three opponents in a single game can be hard and exhausting, so I generally let them slaughter each other and then feast on their remains. When their shields are down, I make my move. Haste is very important for this kind of playstyle, as it enables an OTK as soon as Lazav hits the battlefield. This strategy perfectly represents the nature of the Dimir Guild.

To no one's surprise, creatures are the core of the deck. There are only 13 in the list, but each one has its specific role. Some of them combo off with Lazav to create our win conditions, while others offer general utility. Of course, all of these creatures (apart from a couple who can work on their own) need to be in the graveyard for Lazav's ability to work, so I won't be repeating that every time.

Win Conditions Show

Utility Show

Counterspells Show

Loot Effects Show

Tutors Show

Removal Show

Utility Show

Phyrexian Arena, Rhystic Study and Dark Tutelage are some of the best card-draw enchantments in the format. They all cost three mana but will compensate the initial investment by drawing a ton of cards over the course of a single game. Just be careful with the Tutelage because, unlike Dark Confidant, we can't remove it that easily if we are low on life.

Training Grounds is one of the best cards in the whole deck. Although we can't reduce Lazav's ability to less than 1 mana, paying just to turn our commander into an Invisible Stalker, Cavern Harpy or Wall of Blood makes a huge difference. This means that we can do that multiple times in the same turn in response to removal, which makes Lazav even harder to kill. All of our combos will cost a lot less mana, and this means we can easily leave mana available for protection.

Telepathy is a very useful tool. We are an OTK deck, so we need to know exactly who to knock out and when. Telepathy helps a lot in that regard by giving full access to our opponents' hands at all times, so that we can plan our moves in advance. If we see that the player we want to kill has some form of disruption in hand, we can wait until we have a counterspell. If we were to kill player A but see that player B is about to cast a Rest in Peace or even combo off on his or her following turn, we can prevent that from happening by shifting our focus on player B and remove him or her from the game. Or, if we see an opponent has absolutely nothing in hand, we can simply kill him or her and be left with only two opponents. We have very limited resources and a single mistake can cost us the game: Telepathy basically gives us extra insurances.

Search for Azcanta   basically lets us surveil 1 during each of our upkeeps. This will filter our draws in the early game by giving us the choice to mill lands if we need action or spells if we need mana. There are also some small chances to hit some of our key creatures with our Azcanta triggers, which is an added benefit. Once the enchantment flips, it becomes a land. For this reason, one could also see this card as a form of sudo-ramp. The land itself is also incredibly powerful, helping us dig for our key spells. This is especially useful in the late game, when we will have some extra mana to spend.

For artifact ramp we have Sol Ring, Dimir Signet, Talisman of Dominance, Mana Crypt and Mox Amber: with such a cheap commander, turning the Mox online will be very easy. An important thing to keep in mind is that Lazav's ability requires colourless mana, so we are free to include colourless mana rocks like the Crypt without significant drawbacks.

Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots are two of the most important cards in the deck because they offer protection and haste all in one single equipment. The Greaves are significantly better than the Boots because of their equip cost of , but it's worth including both.

Key to the City can be used as an instant speed discard outlet as well as a way to give Lazav unblockable for free. On top of that, we can pay to draw a card during our untap step to minimise the card disadvantage.

Despite all of our efforts, Lazav will eventually get removed more than once over the course of a game. And while his initial CMC facilitates recasting him two or three times compared to other generals, spending six or more mana for our commander doesn't leave us too much mana left. With Netherborn Altar we completely skip the commander tax by putting Lazav into our hands from the command zone at instant speed. The drawback is the exponential life loss it requires, but it shouldn't be that big of a deal. We can afford to pay the commander tax once and cast Lazav for four mana. From then on, we should start using the Altar. The first time it costs three life, the second time six life. It is very unlikely that we will have to do this more than twice, so the total cost would be nine life. I think it is well worth the investment.

This deck has a very low average CMC, but we still need as much mana as possible to activate Lazav's ability multiple times and hold up counterspells at the same time. I feel that 35 lands plus 5 mana rocks is ideal. You could tweak those numbers a little bit by including more mana rocks and less lands, but I don't think you should go over 40 total mana sources. We have many ways to dig through our deck, so we won't have many problems hitting our land drops.

Since Lazav's ability doesn't require coloured mana, we are free to include more utility lands than normal. These are my choices:

Cephalid Coliseum can turn into a loot spell in the late game, once we have threshold. The drawback of having to lose 1 life every time we tap the Coliseum for mana is annoying but still acceptable.

Geier Reach Sanitarium is another land with a loot effect attached to, although this time being symmetrical.

Minamo, School at Water's Edge can be used to untap Lazav at instant speed to use him to block in case of need.

Strip Mine is here to deal with annoying lands like Maze of Ith. If we want to attack a player with a Maze on the field, we need an Invisible Stalker to give Lazav hexproof at the right time or a Stifle-like effect. Having some form of land destruction can save us some troubles. Plus, there are also other good targets like Gaea's Cradle, Boseiju, Who Shelters All, Cabal Coffers and so on.

Ancient Tomb is extremely powerful because it's a land that taps for . The life loss can be relevant, so be careful not to tap it too much.

Command Beacon, like Netherborn Altar, is another way of skipping the commander tax. This time it works only once, but the effect being attached to a land is a nice bonus.

Shizo, Death's Storehouse is a way to give Lazav evasion for just against decks with no black or artifact creatures.

Like every deck in every format, this one has its own pros and cons. I will try my best to be as self-critical as I can.

Strenghts Show

Weaknesses Show

Hatred: a one-time Wall of Blood. With the addition of Banehound, these kind of cards got a lot better than before because we can immediately gain the HP back. At six mana, though, the combo is quite slow. Still, it can be worth including because of its surprise factor (Hatred is an instant).

Gitaxian Probe: a cantrip but, more importantly, a way to unveil one of our opponents' plans. This can be crucial in determining our next moves.

Ensnaring Bridge: since we are able to change Lazav's power at will, we can get around the Bridge's restriction while at the same time stop our opponents from attacking us.

Mana Web: another defensive tool because it forces our opponents to basically tap out if they want to play any spell during their turns, thus giving us free room to do whatever we want during our turn.

Karn, the Great Creator: he shuts down our opponents artifacts like mana rocks and, most importantly, Relic of Progenitus and Tormod's Crypt, and his -2 is the only way we can get one of our many artifact win conditions if they ever get exiled.

As I have explained in the Introduction, I have not included big, value creatures like Arcanis the Omnipotent and Doom Whisperer because they are way too expensive to copy.

Phage the Untouchable, the card that got everyone excited as soon as Lazav got spoiled, doesn't make the cut. I've actually had Phage in the deck for the first 2 months of testing, and I never won a single game with her. The problem is clearly her mana cost, which is too high to copy. If we want to go for a Phage kill we need a minimum of , which often goes up to if we want to give Lazav evasion with one of our other creatures. This makes holding up mana to protect our general almost impossible. All of our other win conditions are much cheaper, and thus faster and safer.

The Necrotic Ooze + Bloodline Keeper   + Grimgrin, CorpseBorn combo. It works like this: we have Lazav on the field and those 3 creatures in the graveyard. We pay and copy the Ooze, so that Lazav gets all the activated abilities of all creatures in all graveyards (including those of Grimgrin and the Keeper). We then tap him to create a 2/2 Vampire with the Keeper's ability, then sacrifice the token with Grimgrin's ability to untap Lazav and put a +1/+1 counter on him. We can do this as many times as we like, and at the end of the day we have an infinite/infinite Lazav. Sounds familiar? Yes, because we can achieve the exact same result with the Crackdown Construct + Ornithopter combo that we already have. Except, we only need two combo pieces instead of three and we are also giving Lazav flying in the process thanks to the Ornithopter. On top of that, if we were to include the Necrotic Ooze combo, we would waste three slots of our deck for three creatures that do absolutely nothing for us on their own. At the very least, Ornithopter can always be useful to give our commander flying for free at any time, even if we don't have the Construct. We could add Triskelion to the Ooze combo to kill every player in the same turn, but then it would be a 4-card combo + Lazav. It is way too clunky and not worth including.

I have not included ways to shuffle our graveyard back into our library to protect it from an exile effect, like Feldon's Cane or Perpetual Timepiece. We would essentially move from a terrible situation (graveyard exiled) to a really bad situation (graveyard shuffled into library), because we would have to restart the game and go get back the creatures we need. Instead, I preferred to go all-in on direct graveyard protection with 4 cards that counter activated or triggered abilities.

There are no wheel effects apart from Windfall. As I have said we want to discard specific cards, not all of them. We don't want to lose a counterspell just to discard a creature; also, if we give draws to our opponents, chances are they can find more answers. Selected, one-sided discard effects work just fine and reduce randomness.

There are no self-mill cards like Mesmeric Orb and its kind. Again, self-milling is purely random and we don't want to depend on luck.

There are no creatures with Level Up. I do get that Level Up counters stick on Lazav as he changes form and that is cool, but there are two main issues. First, if he dies he loses all of them making the mana investment too risky. Secondly, we can only level up at sorcery speed which is the exact opposite of what we are trying to do.

There is no Glen Elendra Archmage. She costs 4 mana to copy which is a lot, and if we want to be able to counter something immediately we need a total of 5 mana. I would rather prefer having a counterspell in hand to still have an element of surprise, which is something we won't have once we have a Glen Elendra in plain sight in the graveyard.

I have the same issue with Phyrexian Obliterator and Wall of Souls that I have with Glen Elendra Archmage. 90% of the times these cards will be in our graveyard for every player to see, which makes it impossible to get value out of them.

Virtus the Veiled, Ebonblade Reaper and every card that halves an opponent's life total. Our goal is to kill players with commander damage or infect, so we will be oneshotting them anyway.

Necropotence, one of the best draw spells ever printed, unfortunately can't work in this deck. Having to exile each card we discard is a huge nonbo as it turns off all of our loot spells.

Force of Negation, despite being another free counterspell, is a little suboptimal because it can be cast for zero only during an opponent’s turn. Usually, the moment we need to protect Lazav from removal is during our own turn when we are going for the OTK.

There are no creatures with indestructible. As of right now, the cheapest indestructible creatures that we have access to cost three mana or more. This is too much, because they would be too hard to copy multiple times in response to removal. In the future, if WOTC prints an indestructible creature for two or less mana within our colour identity, I could consider it.

Torpor Orb. If I'm forced to hard-cast Phyrexian Dreadnought or Hunted Horror, it means that something wrong happened to the game and I have already lost. A 12/12 on the board won't help me win from that spot. It can be useful to stop annoying ETB triggers like those of Fleshbag Marauder and Plaguecrafter, but I'm not a huge fan of it.

This concludes my Primer for Lazav. I hope I've managed to explain each single aspect of the build in a complete, comprehensive and exhaustive way, as well as convey all the love I have for this deck. I strongly believe the EDH community hasn't given Lazav the merit he deserves, so I hope this guide will help him achieve a little more popularity. I will be updating this list every time a new set comes out. Let me know if you have any doubts or suggestions because they are more than welcome.

Oh, and one final thing. If you are willing to delve into some aspects of the deck, I would suggest taking a look at the comment archive section because there are some interesting discussions created by some users.

Thank you so much for reading this far!

Suggestions

Updates Add

Unfortunately, Theros Beyond Death didn't give us any playable cards. Actually, it brought to the table a couple of good new graveyard exile effects like Erebos's Intervention, Tymaret, Chosen from Death and Soul-Guide Lantern, which made our life even worse.

Along the same lines, Ikoria doesn't have any new card for us. Thankfully, Commander 2020 has a few new powerful additions. I have added three cards to the deck. They are simply better versions of cards we already had, so the changes are quite intuitive.

Deadly Rollick takes the place of Price of Fame. 90% of the times it will be "0 mana: exile a creature", which is significantly better than what we had before.

Fierce Guardianship is simply the best counterspell ever printed for this kind of decks that are based around their commander. The noncreature clause isn't too relevant because we will use it to protect Lazav from removal. It takes the place of Mental Misstep, which is more narrow.

Lastly, we have Netherborn Altar. It's a very efficient way of getting around the commander tax, which would otherwise become very annoying as the game goes on. It replaces Kefnet the Mindful. Kefnet was too clunky at three mana, which resulted in me never being able to use it effectively. We will go back to indestructible when Wizards decides to print an indestructible creature for two or less mana.

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Top Ranked
Date added 1 year
Last updated 2 weeks
Legality

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

8 - 0 Mythic Rares

39 - 0 Rares

19 - 0 Uncommons

14 - 0 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 1.00
Tokens 3/3 Centaur, 2/2 Manifest, 1/1 Bird
Folders Uncategorized, Usefull decks, 6. Third Party Decks, EDH, EDH, Reference, Commander, compare with mine, To try, Ideas, See all 43
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