Taking advantage of an indestructible commander in mono-red burn.
Hazoret may seem like a confusing commander choice in a deck where she will rarely be able to attack or block. However, having a indestructible commander can have surprising utility in mono-red burn, including:
Her built-in asymmetrical damage ability is also not to be underestimated, and can at times be decisive.
Hazoret will often fly under the radar in a way that more obvious commanders for this strategy (Solphim, Mayhem Dominus, Neheb, the Eternal, Heartless Hidetsugu) don't. Hazoret does not seem like a powerful commander card in general, and opponents may be expecting a more aggressive strategy, whereas ideally this deck will be passively ramping in the early game. As such, it is not uncommon for the deck to be dismissed as a low priority - perfect for building up to your end game.
Similar to Neheb, the Eternal, the aim is to ramp and then detonate one or two spectacular burn spells that hit all your opponents, supported by damage multipliers and copy effects. Without Neheb's ability this deck relies heavily on artifact based or burst ramp: it can take advantage of (and copy) incidental treasure-generating spells, as well as large one-off effects like Mana Geyser or Jeska's Will to help get you over the line for the finisher. Deflecting Swat, Bolt Bend, Tibalt's Trickery and Boseiju, Who Shelters All are included to counteract timely counterspells.
Don't worry too much about keeping your life total higher than your opponents (a common misconception). This deck is generally happy to lose life to Mana Crypt, Ancient Tomb or fetchlands (for consistent land drops with Crucible of Worlds). Victory can be achieved by timely use of:
Hazoret herself can provide considerable utility as described above, but it is not always necessary to cast her. Beware timely bounce/exile spells when she is holding Pariah's Shield.
Thrill of Possibility, Cathartic Reunion, Seize the Spoils, Big Score and Faithless Looting help you dig as required, and the first three work well with copying effects. While you don't necessarily want to be emptying your hand for Hazoret to attack, there will usually be a couple of cards you won't need immediately, and a few that are happy to be in the graveyard in any case (Recoup, Visions of Ruin). Smuggler's Copter lets you use Hazoret to fulfill a similar role or attack/block where needed.
Fetchlands seem like an odd inclusion in a mono-red deck, but they synergise with Crucible of Worlds for reliable land drops. In corner cases they can also put you on an odd life total to stop you dying to Heartless Hidetsugu and a damage doubler. The snow mana base was originally there to support Extraplanar Lens, but now it's just because I'm used to it - regular Mountains are also fine.
The damage this deck can dish out will usually be able to play a decisive role in the game, if not always a winning one. If you're too slow, however, its quite possible for the deck to do very little - not the best choice if you enjoy a very interactive play style. It's also not uncommon to be in a position to force a draw, but this may be best avoided, depending on your playgroup (or the length of the game).
- Can win out of nowhere, and with the right cards in hand can be in a deceptively strong position with nothing but lands on the board.
- Creature-light, and not badly hurt by most board wipes or anti-creature tech. Cyclonic Rift will catch your enchantments and mana rocks, but even this is rarely as devastating as with other decks.
- Few ways to defend itself if an opponent chooses to focus you down, although your burn spells will naturally clear the board.
- Very little enchantment removal (mono-red) but also surprisingly little artifact removal - the deck is not great at precision removal generally. If possible, remove the player (or all of them).
- Likely to struggle with decks that gain large amounts of life - consider Leyline of Punishment, but note the interaction with Glacial Chasm. There's always the option of doubling the damage done by Heartless Hidetsugu. Note also the infinite damage combos below.
Repercussion or Arcbond + Blasphemous Act - the classic. You can also try Star of Extinction, but that is perhaps a bit too niche.
Hazoret the Fervent + Pariah's Shield + Arcbond + an Earthquake effect = infinite asymmetrical damage. Beware: if you replace Arcbond with Repercussion, you will probably force a draw by creating an infinite compulsory loop.
Shifting Shadow + Hazoret the Fervent - Hazoret survives due to her indestructibility, but you still get to fetch one of five creature targets. Hitting Heartless Hidetsugu lets you instantly activate him, hitting Godo, Bandit Warlord let's you get Pariah's Shield of Blazing Sunsteel straight onto the field and hitting Dockside Extortionist gives you instant ramp. Brash Taunter will also survive and can use the Blazing Sunsteel from Godo, Bandit Warlord for a win condition (see below). Hitting Solphim, Mayhem Dominus is also amazing and you can make it indestructible to keep it around, especially if you haven't already seen Heartless Hidetsugu (see below).
Brash Taunter + Blazing Sunsteel + any damage - target Brash Taunter with the Blazing Sunsteel ability and your opponents with the Brash Taunter ability for an infinite damage railgun. Even better, the Shifting Shadow roulette will eventually get both of them for you (via Godo, Bandit Warlord), and the fight ability on Brash Taunter can kick off the combo.
Solphim, Mayhem Dominus + Heartless Hidetsugu - the old classic instant kill for anyone on an even life total, this is particularly notable because the Shifting Shadow roulette can ALSO get you both of these, if you are lucky. Provided you hit Solphim, Mayhem Dominus first, you can make it indestructible so it survives the destroy trigger. With any luck, Heartless Hidetsugu will be the next hit! Might be you are not in a position to activate it without killing yourself, but if you have damage prevention or a fetchland to get yourself to an odd life total you are good to go! Dictate of the Twin Gods obviously works just as well with Heartless Hidetsugu - as does Fiery Emancipation, provided you have damage prevention.
Molten Psyche with metalcraft + any wheel effect - this can quickly lead to a devastating amount of asymmetrical damage (especially if you copy it - the total damage is cumulative!), but would normally rely on you drawing Molten Psyche off a wheel. However, Memory Jar works particularly well, as you can activate it in response to casting it (I used to run Runehorn Hellkite for the same reason). You can also use copy spells for a similar effect, depending on how many cards your opponents already have in hand. Just make sure you actually have metalcraft online - this deck has a lot less artifacts than it did when I first added the card, but treasure tokens and activating Inkmoth Nexus or Blinkmoth Nexus can help.
Crucible of Worlds with Glacial Chasm for painless protection (or fetchlands for reliable land drops).
Arcbond on an animated Inkmoth Nexus might catch people out for a sudden infect victory, especially if people forget it can block (although if you are being attacked you probably don't have damage prevention in play, so it would be a from-hell's-heart or nuclear deterrent option).
Other Possible Inclusions
Jaya's Immolating Inferno has Hazoret synergy and was in the deck for a while, although ended up being replaced by Crackle with Power. An obvious choice for asymmetrical damage if you feel you don't have enough. Comet Storm is also a good inclusion for its multi-target damage. I found that it was always a little more expensive that I wanted it to be and eventually took it out, but on paper it should perform well.
Otherwise, I would put in Inferno and maybe Fire Tempest. They're not as flexible as Earthquake equivalents, but will clear the board and start knocking down life totals. Sometimes I think the deck might be better if it stopped trying to be clever with doubling and just played more burn.
There are plenty of decent single target X-cost burn spells to finish people off. Devil's Play, Banefire and Electrodominance have useful secondary effects. Fall of the Titans can hit two people, and works well with Doublecast-worded copying (but not Reverberate-worded copying).
Quest for Pure Flame would be the thing I added next. I think it might be better than Furnace of Rath as it gives you a lot more control. The deck doesn't have a huge amount of incremental damage outside Hazoret so I worry about its reliability, but I'm definitely considering trying it again.
Stuffy Doll seems like shoe-in for this deck, but I've found it to be unnecessary (and expensive) redundancy for Hazoret and prefer effects that double the damage to all players. See also Bitter Feud and Curse of Bloodletting. Fire Servant is fine but won't survive more than one Earthquake. Likewise Angrath's Marauders. Goblin Goliath is asymmetrical, but in my view far too fragile and expensive to activate. Your mileage may vary.
Insult / Injury is a nice one-off effect with a useful aftermath mode, but if you have to cast your doubler on the same turn as your burn spell I think copy effects are generally more flexible - see further below.
If you find you're dying to your own burn spells too often, consider also General's Regalia, Pentagram of the Ages, and maybe Dark Sphere. Nova Pentacle is a great political choice which allows you to co-operate with opponents to take out key creatures, and was in the deck for quite a while.
This deck used to heavily rely on mana doublers, but they have gradually been purged as new treasure-generating cards have been released. After all, the deck usually just needs one big finisher, and a lot of them can be copied (plus they support metalcraft!). If you prefer mana doublers, I have previously run Gauntlet of Power, Gauntlet of Might, Caged Sun and Extraplanar Lens. Mana Flare is the much riskier alternative.
There are plenty more mana rocks out there, if needed. Ruby Medallion is constantly in and out of the deck depending on whether I am testing more interesting options (currently Glittering Stockpile). Elementalist's Palette could also be great. Worn Powerstone, Thran Dynamo and Gilded Lotus are other conventional good choices for building to a big finale if you prefer to emphasise artifact based ramp. Consider especially rocks with other useful effects, such as Unstable Obelisk. For a long time I ran Solemn Simulacrum and Burnished Hart, as I wanted to emphasise land-based ramp so that my board was resilient to board clears (especially Cyclonic Rift). However, they're a bit slow and decreased the consistency of Shifting Shadow, although I'm still not entirely sure it was correct to take them out.
Similarly, Golden Guardian
is another flip-land which has good synergy with Hazoret, and basically functions like Burnished Hart with upside. I had it in the deck a long time, but, like the other creature ramp, took it out to increase the reliability of Shifting Shadow.
Brass's Bounty is a one-off effect that might work well here, given you should usually only need to cast one big spell. See also Koth of the Hammer, discussed further below. Treasonous Ogre is an outside choice which performs a similar role, and may warrant testing. I've tried Mage-Ring Network before, but found it too slow.
Maybe Spiteful Repossession, which also does some damage? I just don't think there's usually going to be enough of a difference in lands to make an impact on most board states.
One card that I'd like to try at some point is Curse of Opulence, but it's difficult to reliably take advantage of it myself without many attackers in the deck.
A particularly surprising exclusion is Neheb, the Eternal. Although he sometimes shines, particularly with Pyrohemia and asymmetrical burn effects, I often found the burn spells I wanted to cast just ended up killing him before I could get much out of him. He does let you turn cards in hand into 3 net mana with Hazoret on the field (in a four player game). I may yet put him back in.
Tormenting Voice and Wild Guess for vanilla options, although they have been a bit overtaken by newer, better options. There are a few more looting effects which also create treasures: Pirate's Pillage and Unexpected Windfall. These work great with copy effects and might be fantastic for the deck, although I am slightly put off by 4-mana casting costs. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker
does a number of potentially useful things for this deck, but I dislike that the looting effect takes a turn to kick in, and it can't be copied.
One improvement might be to double down on copy effects such as Dual Strike, Increasing Vengeance, Fork, Reiterate, Dual Casting, Double Vision or even Bonus Round, which work well with many of these Wild Guess effects (as you still only need to discard one card). This also makes instant and sorcery recursion more flexible (see below). Twinning Staff could be excellent if you go all in on that strategy, but I found it wasn't doing enough with the balance as it is. Consider whether your copy spells will also work with your burn spells - I do not use Dual Strike for that reason.
I've avoided cards like Outpost Siege and Vance's Blasting Cannons
as I found they tended to exile my burn spells or doubling effects before I was ready to play them. That includes Furious Rise, although it works well with Hazoret. This has become an increasingly popular red mechanic in more recent sets and there might be some cards of this type that are worth it like, especially big impact ones like March of Reckless Joy. Ignite the Future is one of the better quasi-draw effects (note the Commune with Lava wording - end of next turn), and has a relevant flashback ability (you could choose to pay the regular cost for X spells, although it would require a lot of mana). One exception, which has been in the deck before, is Valakut's Exploration, which works with fetch lands and gets in some good incidental damage (as well as not permanently exiling your cards). Might swap it out with March of Reckless Joy if the latter fails to perform.
I really like Runehorn Hellkite as you don't care about discarding it and it works well with Molten Psyche as described above, but I wanted to play too many other creatures and it dilutes the Shifting Shadow roulette. Reforge the Soul is a good (relatively) budget option. Magus of the Wheel and Wheel of Fate are slower options, and probably not recommended. Knollspine Dragon might be good, but only counts the damage dealt to one opponent, and can be an expensive follow-up to a large burn spell. Apex of Power is a fun option when you need to dig for a finisher, but is useless in the early game. Cavalier of Flame is also not a terrible hit off Shifting Shadows, but I think it would be a bit too inconsistent.
This deck originally had a much stronger artifact theme, using Endless Atlas, Treasure Map
and Thaumatic Compass
as early-game plays to help you generate card advantage, or at least consistent land drops (and I think there have been better options printed since then). More recently I've preferred a spellslinger approach, using cards such as Thrill of Possibility, as I was finding the artifacts a bit slow for my local meta. If artifact options are preferred, Mind's Eye is another great option. I've tried the Weatherlight previously and found it a bit slow, but it might be worth another shot. Staff of Nin, The Immortal Sun and the like are probably a bit slow, although I like the idea of equipping Hazoret with an Avarice Amulet (and Godo can fetch it).
In terms of tutors, Hoarding Dragon could be used to fetch key artifacts, but can backfire. It's also surprisingly hard to kill with this deck, given that several of the burn spells don't hit flyers. Not terrible with Shifting Shadow.
Combating Aggressive Decks
This deck relies on its innocuous board presence and Earthquakes to protect itself, but if your meta has a heavy aggro presence, consider more pillowfort cards like Ensnaring Bridge (Hazoret synergy), Glacial Crevasses (Crucible of Worlds synergy), Forcefield, Maze of Ith, Crawlspace, Smoke and Mudslide. Task Mage Assembly is cute with Hazoret, but probably unnecessary with all the board clearing you'll be doing. Avoid creature-based defences, as you will inevitably wipe them out yourself. (Thanks to Mokan for the suggestions.)
Combating Control Decks
If, on the other hand, you find yourself in a control-heavy meta, consider replacing some of the damage doubling effects with more copy spells like Fork, Reiterate (possibly infinite mana with Mana Geyser) and Dualcaster Mage. See also Mirrorpool, which I keep swapping in and out. These can spread the damage across multiple spells, but are tricky to use in that they need to resolve before (and thus played after) a counterspell, or else they will fizzle when the original burn spell is countered. If you hold priority and copy your burn spell you risk getting blown out by a counterspell, but if you hold your copy spell in hand and don't get countered, you've probably missed your chance to double your damage unless an opponent puts something else on the stack. Doublecast, Repeated Reverberation, Howl of the Horde and Pyromancer's Goggles get around this (and also issues with copying split second spells - see Molten Disaster), but at the cost of being able to copy your opponents' ramp spells, removal or game-ending plays. In the same vein, Storm King's Thunder looks like a slam dunk but I think the mana investment is too high before you start seeing results, and you may as well pour that into the X spells being copied (I'm not going to lie, I haven't actually run the numbers).
Pyroblast and Red Elemental Blast were in the deck for a while but were eventually replaced by more flexible alternatives. Overmaster is another option to fight through counterspells, although probably worse.
Artifact, instant and sorcery recursion are all available in red and may be helpful (particularly now that deck relies on sorceries for card filtering). If what's included isn't enough for you, see also Shreds of Sanity (recommended), Ardent Elementalist, Living Lightning, Pillardrop Warden, Anarchist, Past in Flames and maybe Charmbreaker Devils. Volcanic Vision is neat but too expensive, particular given the mana values of most spells in the deck. For artifacts, there is Goblin Welder, Goblin Engineer, Trash for Treasure and Daretti, Scrap Savant.
Artifact and Enchantment Removal
Those looking for more artifact removal have plenty of options in red. I have a friend who speaks highly of Shattering Spree. Otherwise, I would play Vandalblast, obviously, which is probably a better choice than Structural Assault as it won't take out your treasures and other ramp. Shenanigans has great recursion potential. If enchantments are problematic, try Steel Hellkite, Karn Liberated, Scour from Existence, Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Unstable Obelisk is a good choice that fills two roles. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon goes in and out of the deck, or alternatively for All is Dust due to its potential with sorcery recursion.
My first choice would probably be Ugin, the Ineffable. His plus ability also works well to create valuable blockers who you still get value out of when you boardwipe (or as attackers to trigger raid on Howl of the Horde).
Other than the Ugins, I suspect most planeswalkers will perform poorly in this deck, as it has few ways to defend them from stray attacks (although I'm tempted to play Jaya Ballard anyway for flavour). You could try Chandra Ablaze on the basis that her semi-wheel effect can also hurt card-greedy opponents, as well as her occasionally relevant direct damage. Daretti, Scrap Savant could be useful for his card filtering and artifact recursion. Koth of the Hammer seems like he would fit well, but I'm not sure he will usually survive long enough or ramp enough to be worth it. Karn, Scion of Urza might be worth a try for the card draw. Chandra, Awakened Inferno is fine, but there is no particular synergy so I'm not sure if she does enough.
Chandra, Flame's Catalyst, despite being an intro deck planeswalker, might actually work surprisingly well. Her minus is useful, her plus scales (especially with damage multipliers), and her ultimate is certainly powerful.
Other Win Conditions
Finally, if you want alternative "win condition" cards, try Vicious Shadows. I think it might work better where you can reliably sacrifice your own creatures, but it has the potential to be terrifying in this deck if played onto a full board of creatures.
Alternate Commander - Jaya Ballard, Task Mage
If you feel like going all in on the burn strategy, and want a more thematic (though maybe less unique) commander, you can try swapping out a few key cards to run Jaya Ballard, Task Mage instead.
Running Jaya effectively means you always have a burn spell available, to chip away at life totals and clear the board while you search for the pieces for the finishing blow. She is a much more obvious threat, particularly to the blue players at the table, and so is likely to make you a bit more of a target. Fortunately, you only need her out long enough to Inferno the board with her last ability, ideally multiple times as you accumulate mana.
Although I haven't tested it, these would be my recommended swaps:
Damage redirection is much less effective without an indestructible commander, but Jaya can instead take incredible advantage of lifelink effects to ensure you survive your own burn spells. If you need more, Nova Pentacle is probably reasonable for its political advantages.
The loss of Chandra's Ignition hurts, but having Jaya available makes up for it, particularly with Gratuitous Violence. Note that Pyrohemia is also a bit less reliable/effective without Hazoret.
Distorting Lens is great with Jaya's first ability, and gives mono-red another much-needed way to get rid of enchantments.
Other alternative commanders include Solphim, Mayhem Dominus himself, Godo, Bandit Warlord (to get Pariah's Shield) or Ashling the Pilgrim (add some equipment that gives indestructible or protection from red). Firesong and Sunspeaker is an interesting multi-coloured option, although it's a little expensive and vulnerable. I also suspect it might perform better with win-conditions related to life gain (e.g. Aetherflux Reservoir).
I used to say Neheb, the Eternal is the best commander choice for this strategy since its release, but Solphim, Mayhem Dominus seems almost tailor-made for it. However, the foundations of this deck predate both Neheb and Hazoret (and certainly Solphim), and it has undergone a lengthy journey through multiple commanders in various attempts to make a burn strategy work in EDH. This deck may appeal to those interested in exploring less obvious (and less obviously threatening) options.
I've spent a lot of time tinkering with this deck, trying to work out the proper balance between ramp, damage prevention/redirection, damage doublers, copy effects and card advantage/wheel effects. There are many more options for each, and many possibly surprising omissions due to difficult trade-offs. The balance will likely never be perfect - see what emphasis works best in your meta. At the moment, this version of the deck is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, trying to include a variety of different possible burn strategies, win conditions and beloved pet cards. You could probably make the deck much better by going all in on a single aspect - for example copy effects, pillowfort, Molten Psyche strategies or one of the various combos - and thereby free up a lot of space taken up by the complicated and unintuitive cross-support cards (Inkmoth Nexus serves at least four possible purposes and only one of them takes advantage of infect). However, I adore my patchwork deck and the bizarre ways I end up playing it, and I hope its various pieces can provide inspiration for different takes by others.
Deck and description edited 2 February 2023
25/8/18 - Cards removed: Solemn Simulacrum, Burnished Hart, Neheb, the Eternal. Cards added: Endless Atlas, Mind Stone, Brass's Bounty.
8/9/18 - Cards removed: Golden Guardian
, Mirrorpool. Cards added: Shifting Shadow, Mage-Ring Network.
14/11/18 - Cards removed: Shreds of Sanity. Cards added: Fork.
19/1/19 - Cards removed: Fork, Conqueror's Galleon
, Comet Storm, All is Dust, Nova Pentacle, Azor's Gateway
, Brass's Bounty, Mage-Ring Network. Cards added: Quest for Pure Flame, Doublecast, Mirage Mirror, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Chandra Ablaze, Pyroblast, Red Elemental Blast, Snow-Covered Mountain.
24/2/19 - Cards removed: Endless Atlas, Treasure Map
, Thaumatic Compass
, Flamekin Village, Snow-Covered Mountain, Mirage Mirror, Quest for Pure Flame, Unstable Obelisk. Cards added: Mana Vault, Fellwar Stone, Tormenting Voice, Wild Guess, Cathartic Reunion, Faithless Looting, Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, Geier Reach Sanitarium.
28/7/19 - Cards removed: Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, Geier Reach Sanitarium, Myriad Landscape, Hanweir Battlements
, Vandalblast, Reverberate, Wild Guess, Reforge the Soul, Sunbird's Invocation, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Fellwar Stone, Gilded Lotus, Chandra Ablaze. Cards added: Emergence Zone, Blast Zone, Inkmoth Nexus, Blinkmoth Nexus, Shenanigans, Repeated Reverberation, Pirate's Pillage, Bag of Holding, Chandra, Acolyte of Flame, Ugin, the Ineffable, Shreds of Sanity, Howl of the Horde, Bolt Bend.
30/12/19 - Cards removed: Mind Stone, Caged Sun, Insult / Injury, Gauntlet of Might. Emergence Zone. Cards added: Dockside Extortionist, Thrill of Possibility, Dual Casting, Irencrag Feat, Snow-Covered Mountain.
24/10/20 - Cards removed: Bag of Holding, Scrying Sheets, Cultivator's Caravan, Thran Dynamo, Red Elemental Blast, Shreds of Sanity, Pirate's Pillage, Ugin, the Ineffable, Dual Casting, Snow-Covered Mountain x3. Cards added: Twinning Staff, Emergence Zone, Seething Song, Fiery Emancipation, Deflecting Swat, Underworld Breach, Valakut Exploration, Ruby Medallion, Reverberate, Shatterskull Smashing
, Valakut Awakening
, Prismatic Vista.
18/4/22 - Cards removed: Irencrag Feat, Jaya's Immolating Inferno, Shenanigans, Tormenting Voice, Wheel of Fortune, Furnace of Rath, Emergence Zone, Snow-Covered Mountain, Increasing Vengeance, Seething Song, Extraplanar Lens, Twinning Staff, Worn Powerstone, Ruby Medallion. Cards added: Crackle with Power, Jeska's Will, Hoard Hauler, Structural Assault, Visions of Ruin, Wheel of Misfortune, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker
, Treasure Vault, War Room, March of Reckless Joy, Tibalt's Trickery, Blazing Sunsteel, Brash Taunter, Glittering Stockpile.
18/6/22 - Cards removed: Gauntlet of Power, Pyroblast, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker
, Valakut Exploration. Cards added: Smoke Spirits' Aid, Wild Magic Surge, Seize the Spoils, Storm King's Thunder.
30/1/23 - Cards removed: Smoke Spirits' Aid, Storm King's Thunder, March of Reckless Joy, Structural Assault, Runehorn Hellkite. Cards added: Solphim, Mayhem Dominus, Delayed Blast Fireball, Wheel of Fortune, Big Score, Red Sun's Twilight.
Considering - swapping Treasure Vault for a Snow-Covered Mountain and adding back a Extraplanar Lens (do I need both Blinkmoth Nexus as well as Inkmoth Nexus?). Or some other low-cost ramp - a Chrome Mox or Wayfarer's Bauble? Chandra, Hope's Beacon looks pretty playable in this deck.