Challenge the Stats – Mazirek, featuring The Nitpicking Nerds
(Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest | Art by Mathias Krollros)
Let's Get Mazi-REC'd!
Hello, and welcome to Challenge the Stats, the series based off of the segment on the EDHRECast, where we challenge the inclusion rates of 10 cards on a commander’s page on EDHREC. We’ll highlight cards that we think are overplayed, underplayed, or sleeper picks (according to our data).
These suggestions are meant to accompany EDHREC’s data. However, inclusions made on account of flavor, budget, art, or anything important to you, as the deckbrewer, are always valid and are what keep our format unique.
Today we’re talking about another reprinted commander from Double Masters, and I think it's both spicy and underrated. Last Challenge the Stats, readers voted for Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest.
Mazirek is a flying 2/2 for five mana. While that doesn't seem like much, what we really want from Mazirek is his ability: whenever a player sacrifices a permanent, put a +1/+1 counter on each creature we control. This is powerful, and Mazirek won’t stay a 2/2 for long. He pushes us in two very simple directions: go wide, and sacrifice. We want to make lots of little creatures to put counters on, and we want everyone to sacrifice things to make those dinky creatures giant.
Now for a special interview with:
This week, we have two very special guests from the Magic community. To get the inside scoop about Mazirek, I interviewed Joe Cherries and Beezy from The Nitpicking Nerds. They featured Mazirek on their Youtube channel, which you should definitely check out.
EDHREC (): Thanks for helping us out today guys! First of all, tell us a little bit about yourselves. Who are you, what do you do, and what are your favorite decks?
The Nitpicking Nerds (): We are Joe Cherries and Beezy of the Nitpicking Nerds, and we make Commander content on Youtube: deck techs, budget advice, silly top tens and tier lists, and a bunch of other stuff. We're two best friends who love to rag on each other. Our favorite decks are Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow (Joe), and a super blinged-out Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Beezy).
: You guys had some great insights into Mazirek in your video. Where do you think he sits on the power level spectrum?
: We have actually done a series where we rank every commander! Mazirek’s power ranking falls at a 5, which for us means he “offers moderate impact on the game.” Mazirek can be really strong, but he is a little clunky.
: That's an honest assessment. How do you feel about the tendency for combo in Mazirek decks, especially when facing up against an average playgroup?
: Mazirek is one of those commanders that is difficult NOT to combo with if you go about the route of getting to use his ability as much as possible. I think it’s important to be clear to your playgroup about whether or not you have a combo deck in the first place.
: Speaking of that ability, how often can you rely on your opponents to give you +1/+1 counters without help?
: I wouldn’t expect to get more than one +1/+1 counter from Mazirek per turn cycle. You mostly have to rely on your own cards!
: That's certainly good for players to keep in mind when first building him. In your opinion, what’s the most important thing to know when piloting a Mazirek deck?
: I think the most important decision you need to make is whether your deck is going to run out Mazirek early and pump your creatures or keep him in the command zone until you’re ready to set off a huge combo. If you’re running him out first, you’re probably prepared for a slower-paced game with lower power level decks.
: These days, a lot of people are playing over webcam. Some commanders are better or worse for this. How well do you think Mazirek plays remotely?
: I would imagine it would be one of the tougher commanders to play over webcam, but if you have a good quality image and don’t have a problem endlessly clarifying how many counters you have, then we say go for it.
: Okay guys, let’s challenge some stats. Are there any cards on Mazirek’s EDHREC page that you really don’t think should be there?
: Well, we are the NITPICKING Nerds, and we’d say that we don’t care much for Archfiend of Depravity, Moldervine Reclamation, Butcher of Malakir, Creakwood Liege, Grave Titan, and similar cards that we think are just too slow for the effect they offer.
: I like it, let’s keep our deck lean and mean. Now for the opposite side of Challenge the Stats. What cards do you think could be played more in Mazirek?
: I think a lot of the tiny edges in Mazirek come from taking every aspect of the deck and adding the sacrifice spice to it, so a lot of personal pet cards can shine in this deck as long as they sacrifice stuff.
: I’m a big fan of any deck that has pet cards. This has been great guys. Before you go, is there anything else you think players should know about playing Mazirek?
: I think one thing we realized is that he is a little harder to cast and get going than it seems like, so I would go a little extra on the early ramp!
: Thank you guys so much. Readers: be sure to follow The Nitpicking Nerds on YouTube. They have deck techs every Monday, podcast episodes every Wednesday, and are also taking on the daunting task of ranking every commander ever made!
Now that we're acquainted with Mazirek, let's do some more Challenge the Stats! Mazirek has a total of 428 decks to his name at the time of writing, and we're going to look at all of those decks collectively. You can see how often each card is played in those 428 decks in parentheses.
Joe and Beezy challenged some great overplayed cards that are too slow in Mazirek decks. We want to be as low to the ground as possible. Other than that, there are just so many good card options for Mazirek that differ based on personal preference, so much so that it’s hard to find cards on his page that don't deserve to be there, and this week's Challenge the Stats will skip the overplayed section. It's almost like The Golgari Swarm likes to make lots of creatures and sacrifice them...
I will say that deciding whether or not we’re playing combo will help us find overplayed cards for our deck. If we’re not playing combo, we want to stay away from cards like Animation Module and any Persist creatures. If we are playing combo, we know to especially stay away from the clunky cards. Let's move right on to the underplayed cards.
1. Reassembling Skeleton (26%)
Let’s not underestimate this little guy. Having a body always around to sacrifice for two mana will go a long way. In addition, sacrificing a nontoken creature is often relevant, like in the case of Grim Haruspex or Pawn of Ulamog. It might sound surprising from an unassuming uncommon, but we will never be disappointed to see this bone-afide value-enabler in our hand (pun intended).
2. Bloodspore Thrinax (19%)
There aren’t many effects that imitate Mazirek. The ones that do exist are either over-costed, restricted to a specific creature type, or limited to a few creatures. Bloodspore Thrinax sort of imitates Mazirek in reverse. Where Mazirek wants to get a bunch of creatures and then have sacrifice triggers, Bloodspore Thrinax wants to be in play first and then pump up every creature we play after it. It’s a great back-up plan to or in conjunction with Mazirek, and it lets us sacrifice creatures, so it gets a big thumbs-up from me.
3. Carrion (16%)
Carrion is everything I want to do in this deck. It’s a mini-Ghoulcaller Gisa on an instant. We want a swarm, and Carrion easily gives us a swarm of Maggots. We can take a big creature that’s about to die and turn it into a bunch of 0/1 Maggots that Mazirek will turn into giant Maggots and run over our opponents. Wait… crawl over our opponents? It’ll be a slow, Maggot-y death, that’s for sure.
4. Farhaven Elf (8%)
Hey, remember Farhaven Elf? Our format has been shifting increasingly to more efficient ramp these days. However, when our commander costs five mana, I’m all for three-mana ramp that gives us a relevant body that we can sacrifice. Springbloom Druid (35%) is amazing for us, getting a sacrifice trigger and a relevant body. Wood Elves (17%) is also great, and Mazirek players are even jamming mana dorks like Llanowar Elves (26%) and Elvish Mystic (17%).
5. Ophiomancer (7%)
A pet card of many commander players, I was surprised to not see Opiomancer on Mazirek’s EDHREC page. It gives us a Snake to sacrifice each upkeep, and with deathtouch it’s a great blocker. With one of our sacrifice outlets on board, we can sacrifice a Snake for a Mazirek trigger on every player’s turn! Ophiomancer was only printed once in Commander 2013, so I’d hold your breath if you’re looking to pick one up for cheaper than $15. That price will plummet with a reprint, and who knows what Commander Legends holds!
6. Putrid Goblin (7%) & Rendclaw Trow (7%)
I see a few Persist creatures on the page: Puppeteer Clique and Woodfall Primus. Persist immediately goes infinite with Mazirek and a sacrifice outlet, since Mazirek’s +1/+1 counter and the Persist -1/-1 counter cancel each other out. This isn’t everyone’s jam, but clearly a few people are rocking this combo, and I think some of the more efficient ones should appear if people are going that route. Aerie Ouphes doesn’t even need a sacrifice outlet since it has one built in, so it’s just a two-card infinite combo with our commander. Putrid Goblin and Rendclaw Trow both have low casting costs but do need a sacrifice outlet to combo off. As The Nitpicking Nerds said, Mazirek can certainly do a lot of combo shenanigans, and it’s important to communicate that with our playgroup so they know what they’re up against.
7. Varolz, the Scar-Striped (4%)
Our deck wants sacrifice outlets. We can put in altars, like Phyrexian Altar and Ashnod’s Altar, but we probably want more of these effects (don’t skimp on the Spawning Pit). Sac outlets on creatures are a great way to get this redundancy and can become big threats for us (and they're easy on the wallet). Viscera Seer (52%), Woe Strider (47%) and Carrion Feeder (16%) are beloved for their cheap mana cost and utility, but they are vulnerable to removal. Yahenni, Undying Partisan is being played in 35% of Mazirek decks, and they protect themself by sacrificing a creature and getting indestructibility. In a similar vein, Varolz regenerates himself by sacrificing a creature and has +1/+1 counter synergy with Scavenge. If our other creature-based sacrifice outlets are being played this much, Varolz is definitely worth consideration.
8. Life’s Legacy (4%) & Momentous Fall (2%)
This is another duo that I was surprised was missing from the page. I see every version of the Altar’s Reap (19%) effect: Costly Plunder (13%), Village Rites (42%). These cards are capped at giving us two cards back, but if we’re sacrificing nontoken creatures, we might be stuck trading two cards for two cards. However, Legacy and Fall have much higher ceilings. In the early game, we might have to sacrifice a smaller creature, but a 2/2 or higher and these are just as good as Altar’s Reap and friends. That’s a very easy ceiling to top. Late game, Legacy and Fall can potentially refill our entire hand, and then some!
9. Clackbridge Troll (3%)
Clackbridge Troll’s choice is even more painful for our opponents with Mazirek’s ability. They’ll either get hit with a very large hasty trampler or let us not only draw a card and gain three life, but also put a counter on our whole team with Mazirek. The Troll also lets us give a player without creatures some fodder to sacrifice to itself or our Plaguecrafter.
Throne of Eldraine gave us lots of goodies for Mazirek. Gilded Goose, Gluttonous Troll, and Savvy Hunter all give us Food tokens to sacrifice to pump up our team. Chittering Witch fills our board with Rat tokens. Piper of the Swarm gives us menacing Rat tokens and can eventually steal an opponent's creature. Rankle, Master of Pranks gives us a Plaguecrafter effect with combat damage, or we could make some deals with his other modes. These aren’t optimal choices, but they are fun. As Matt Morgan always says, "Build like a Timmy, play like a Spike."
10. Dark Dabbling (0%)
Maybe I'm biased, but I love Regenerate. I recently built a Korlash, Heir to Blackblade Voltron deck themed around the mechanic. There’s almost no greater feeling in Magic than responding to a board wipe with a mass Regenerate spell or a Heroic Intervention (19%). It doesn't work for all board wipes, but when it does, it’s the ultimate “gotcha”!
At its floor, Dark Dabbling saves our commander or best creature and replaces itself. Its ceiling, however, is magical christmasland game swings. Keeping our board when everyone else’s gets blown up can be devastating. We are working with a lot of tokens and counters, so we really don’t want to get set back. If you're looking for more of these effects, check out Inspiring Call, Wrap in Vigor, and Wail of the Nim.
Let’s go to a decklist. This is a mid-budget mass of casual cardboard that I think would be really fun to play with Mazirek. In keeping it mid-budget (<$20/card), there's no Doubling Season, but if there ever was a deck for Doubling Season, this is it.
Like we heard from The Nitpicking Nerds said, this is a place for pet cards to shine. There are a lot of great options to include in Mazirek, from ultra-budget to highly-tuned, and plenty of room to season to personal taste. Hey, here's an even more budget version of Mazirek at about $60.
EDHREC Your Mazirek Before You Wreck Your MazirekView on Archidekt
This was a blast of an article to work on. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope Mazirek sees some more decks made as a result of his Double Masters reprint. Thanks to The Nitpicking Nerds for being great guests! Be sure to find them on Twitter @NitpickingNerds and YouTube!
Do you want to see more interviews in Challenge the Stats–vote below! What cards would you challenge? Let me know in the comments! As always, you can find me on Twitter @jevin_mtg if you have any questions or comments.