Commander Focus — Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire
Vaevictis, New and Improved
Behold, Vaevictus Asmadi, the Dire! A new upgrade to an old classic. The previous version of this Elder Dragon had firebreathing, as well as treebreathing and swampbreathing. While this ability might be fascinating to reptilian nutritionists, it's a bit mediocre compared to what modern commanders can do. The upgraded version gets to cause widespread destruction and chaotic change every time it attacks, which sounds much more interesting. He is also now wearing a necktie for some reason, presumably so he can ask you to come into work on Saturday.
For this article, I'm going to do things a bit differently than usual. I'm going to highlight some lesser-known features of EDHREC and look at the Theme pages. Instead of walking through ways to search card text and what specific words and phrases to look for, I'll show you where the big EDHREC database has already searched card text for specific words and phrases so that we don't have to.
Did you know that this website has a page that aggregates decks based around identified strategic archetypes? Now you do. It's at edhrec.com/themes, also found on your friendly navigation bar when you click the word Themes and then pick 'More themes...' at the bottom of the dropdown menu. Try it out, look around, then come back and we'll talk about how all that applies to Vaevictis.
Vaevictis: Primary Themes
Some game mechanics are direct results of what the commander is doing. Vaevictis causes everyone to sacrifice something, then everyone gets to put the top card of their library on the field without having to pay for the card. The relevant primary themes here are labeled Sacrifice and Big Mana.
The sacrifice theme is fairly straightforward. From this page, we can browse cards used by all commanders within the theme. If we want to get more specific (which we do), we can also click though a specific commander from that page and see stats for that commander when focused on the given theme.
Within black/red/green, Shattergang Brothers can help identify cards that give you some benefit coming and going, like the famous Solemn Simulacrum or the lesser-known Mycosynth Wellspring. The Brothers expect to be sacrificing their own stuff, so they know a few things about cards that are reusable in various ways. There are the usual self-reanimators like Bloodghast or Reassembling Skeleton. There are also some cards that return to your hand by themselves. Spine of Ish Sah, for example, does some work when it enters, can be sacrificed by Vaevictis, and then eventually cast again. Another candidate for perusal is Kresh the Bloodbraided, who directly benefits when creatures are killed, so he knows some ways to make that happen.
Some commanders are able to play cards (usually) from the top of their deck without paying the full cost, or any cost at all. These decks are full of juicy high mana cost spells. We can peep at their pages, focus on the permanents, and pick our favorites. Try to steer clear of instants and sorceries with Vaevictis, since we want the top card of our library to be a permanent when Vaevictis attacks. Look for fun high-CMC artifacts or enchantments that you haven't played much before because of their high mana cost. For example, have you ever wanted to play Sandwurm Convergence without spending eight mana? Grave Betrayal or Vicious Shadows are also expensive, but could be free, and each do great things for us when multiple creatures are dying. Note that our commander could potentially cause four creatures to die every time it attacks.
The Big Mana page of course has plenty of the usual Eldrazi creatures that tilt the mana curve. We can dig down into theme-specific Mayael the Anima decks to pick up some beefy red/green creatures, or we could look at Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder in a Big Mana context and ignore the blue cards (of which there are many).
Another point for this theme is that since most of the favorite Big Mana commanders get free things from the top of their deck, they might know some tricks to manipulate the top few cards of our library, so we can get the best one on top for our attack step.
Vaevictis: Secondary Themes
Other deck archetypes and strategies can be complementary to the primary themes of the deck. Specifically, we need a way to solve the problem of having to sacrifice our own stuff. A couple of approaches to solving this puzzle are simply various ways to get more stuff, so that we have some extra to sacrifice.
Since we have to sacrifice something, why not make some expendable creatures to sacrifice? Many creature token decks have white in their color identity, but green is also heavily supported. We could perhaps look at Saskia the Unyielding's token theme page and tiptoe around the white cards. Thromok the Insatiable is another example in red/green that expects to be making plenty of doomed creatures, which gives us more ideas for extra stuff to sacrifice.
Not every token is a creature, though. Revel in Riches gives us artifact tokens for mana ramping or sacrifice, supports our primary sacrifice theme when opponent creatures die, and gives us the occasional win condition if nobody stops our treasure from piling up. King Macar, the Gold-Cursed might be able to give us a different currency of artifact while aiding our removal. And who would have guessed there are pages for decks that are dedicated to making Clue tokens? They are mostly in white/blue/green, but Riku of Two Reflections's Clue theme page has red/green covered.
We don't necessarily have to sacrifice creatures or artifacts. As The Gitrog Monster and Titania, Protector of Argoth both know, workable decks can be made around sacrificing your own lands. Part of that strategy is playing more lands in the first place. Landfall is slightly more powerful with Vaevictis than usual because of the chance that you might flip a land off the top of your deck in addition to playing one for your turn. Creatures like Courser of Kruphix and Oracle of Mul Daya not only help get the land out of our deck and onto the field, they also let Vaevictis see the top card and maybe make some better decisions when it's time to attack. Would you like to play The Gitrog Monster and Omnath, Locus of Rage in the same deck? I would.
(Editor's Note: This article was written before Commander 2018's Lord Windgrace was revealed.)
Vaevictis: Tertiary Themes
These themes are well supported in black/red/green but may or may not work with the primary strategy. Think of these as condiments or spices to be added to your own taste. They might be completely optional to your build depending on how much you like them. You don't have to use any of them, or you could take your favorite parts from all of them.
One approach is for Vaevictis to target and forcibly sacrifice all of his opponents' lands, and then continue to blow up any newcoming enemy lands on top of that. These colors are pretty good for a land destruction approach. Most cards in this category tend to be instants or sorceries, but there are a few permanents that can repeatedly terraform. You might find some on the Land Destruction theme pages for Darigaaz, the Igniter or even Xira Arien just because we haven't looked at those commanders yet. Or you could read my previous article on Wasitora, Nekoru Queen where I dig into this specific topic a bit deeper.
If Vaevictis is on the board and doing its thing, then the overall board state will be in constant flux every time he attacks. If you want to enhance the group feeling of uncontrollable helplessness as all players have to crumple up their plans and throw them away on your attack step, then consider the Chaos theme. This emphasizes randomness and unpredictable change. While we already looked at Yidris under a Big Mana microscope, there is also a Chaos aggregate of collective Yidris decks, and the cards are quite different.
Do you want to cause everyone pain just for sitting at the same table as you? This isn't necessarily something that works directly with the primary themes for Vaevictis. However, like land destruction and chaos, these colors are good for it. Mogis, God of Slaughter demonstrates the black/red side of mass punishment, with some potential sacrifice synergy as well.
This build has many similarities with my Wasitora, Nekoru Queen deck. On the surface, they are both flying Jund Dragons that cause things to be sacrificed. However, this time there are zero instants or sorceries. Everything here is a permanent. Yes, Primal Surge would be very effective, but I'm not going to do it here. Feel free to add it to your own build, and then have all your joy crushed to pulp when Vaevictis pulls it off the top and you can't play it because it's not a permanent.
Comparing my two Jund Dragon decks - neither of which have very many actual Dragons in the deck itself - I'm still using an 'anti-nonbasic-land' strategy (or 'pro-basic-land,' if you don't not never like double negatives). In place of Wasitora's instants and sorceries, Vaevictis uses more of the commonly seen green mana dorks for faster ramping, various land-fetching elves instead of the usual green land tutors, members of the Falkenrath Noble club with Blood Artist and the new Poison-Tip Archer, and a few more token-makers than before. Oh, and a few titanic Eldrazi. Those too. What's that you say? Vaevictis flipping Kozilek, Butcher of Truth as the top card isn't the same as casting it so I don't get to draw four cards? Oh well, I guess I'll just sit here being sad with all the extra mana I have from not paying for this free 12/12 with Annihilator 4. Maybe I won't have any extra combat steps this turn with mass haste either. Let's find out.