Conditions Allow - Tetzimoc, Primal Death

(Tetzimoc, Primal Death | Art by Zack Stella)

A Hunter's Mark

With the full decklists now released for the Commander 2019 product, everyone is eagerly discussing the best ways to build around the new commanders. Even if none of the new legendaries speak to you personally, these decks also come packed both with reprints and with several new cards to upgrade all your old decks as well. It is in this spirit that I picked out the subject for this edition of Conditions Allow, Tetzimoc, Primal Death.

Tetzimoc, Primal Death is a 6/6 Legendary Elder Dinosaur with only eight decks on EDHREC. This is likely because Tetzimoc needs to be in your hand to function at its best, and it isn't easy to get your commander into your hand. If you can get it there, though, you gain access to what is essentially a targeted board wipe. This Elder Dinosaur has the potential to clear the entire board, or simply destroy the most threatening creatures around. You can use this for political gain, or simply as a deterrent for your opponents' most powerful creatures.

Building to the Average

I usually like to start by checking the EDHREC pages of similar commanders. Tetzimoc's potential to wipe the board makes me think of Massacre Girl. We want to get Tetzimoc back to hand, which is also a concern for Gonti, Lord of Luxury and Kokusho, the Evening Star. However, I want to come at this from the perspective of someone upgrading their deck with new cards, not building a deck from the ground up. Since I don't personally have a Tetzimoc deck, I turned instead to its average EDHREC deck.

This deck actually looks pretty strong already: it's got some good card draw and lots of creature removal with some beefy threats to close out the game. There are also a lot of effects that return creatures from your graveyard to your hand. This seems to be the general plan for getting Tetzimoc into your hand, other than Command Beacon and Erratic Portal. It also suggests that the deck wants to continually recur its creatures to cast them repeatedly, fueled by big mana engines like Caged Sun and Cabal Coffers.

There are certainly areas we can update, and possibly improve, most notably among them that there are new options for card draw and ramp. We could also include some cards that aren't new, but that I think definitely belong in this deck, even though they don't show up on Tetzimoc's EDHREC page at all. Without any further ado, let's dive in and see which ones I'm talking about.

New Cards, More Cards

The average deck has a fairly good suite of draw effects, which I am going to leave mostly untouched. Erebos, God of the Dead in particular is great, preventing our opponents from recovering before our larger creatures can finish the game. His card draw effect does synergize really well with Vilis, Broker of Blood, though. Drawing three cards for one and a black is pretty good, as is drawing two every upkeep from Phyrexian Arena. I'm also going to add both Midnight Reaper and Liliana, Dreadhorde General. These are both slightly weaker versions of Harvester of Souls, but the deck already has a slight self-sacrifice feel that is only going to get stronger as we keep adding cards.

The final card I really want to add here is Gonti, Lord of Luxury. Every time they enter the battlefield, Gonti will essentially let us draw a card from one of our opponents' decks. Even if Gonti leaves play, we still get to cast that card, meaning we don't have to be shy about playing them over and over again, either. I'm actually surprised Gonti wasn't in the original deck.

Making an Entrance

Gonti's absence may be because the original deck wasn't focusing on its creatures entering the battlefield. This feels like an oversight, especially given the number of creatures in the deck that make a huge impact when they come into play. Grave Titan can overrun your opponents with Zombie tokens, and Noxious Gearhulk will make sure nothing gets in the way.

Even some of our card draw (and a lot of our graveyard recursion) is a result of creatures entering the battlefield. Having Panharmonicon seems like a no-brainer. What could be better than doubling all our awesome triggered abilities? Tripling them, of course! That is, after all, essentially what Blade of Selves will do in a four-player game. We don't even mind attacking with smaller creatures, like Disciple of Bolas, since the deck is packed full of ways to get them back to our hand.

Of course, we could skip the graveyard altogether. This strays dangerously close to blue territory, but we do have a few ways to get creatures directly back into our hand. Erratic Portal only costs a single mana to activate, and can return any creature we control to our hand. Sanctum of Eternity only works with our commander, but it is probably the best thing this deck could have asked for. These represent the most direct methods of getting Tetzimoc, Primal Death into our hand. Sanctum of Eternity is especially good, since it is much harder to remove than Erratic Portal. We can add in even more tutors than the average deck had to regularly find one of these cards by the time we cast Tetzimoc.

Never Gone Long

Of course, the main way we will be getting creatures back to our hand is from the graveyard. The average deck already had plenty, but there are a few others I think are worth making space for. Undertaker helps us put creatures in the grave to feed the requirements for Pit Keeper and Oversold Cemetery. Haunted Crossroads is a repeatable effect, although it puts creatures on top of our library instead of into our hand. The only new card to add here is Command the Dreadhorde. The real dream is to cast the Command with Vilis, Broker of Blood in play, truly putting yourself in a near untouchable position.

All this revival means we need to get creatures into the graveyard. There aren't any new, fancy ways to do this, but the original deck didn't seem to be able to do this on its own. Relying on our opponents to kill our creatures isn't the best idea. Both Ashnod's Altar and Phyrexian Altar help make mana for the big spells this deck wants to cast while letting us put creatures into the graveyard when we need to. With that in mind, we can also include Ogre Slumlord and Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder for some extra token fodder.

Big Mana

There have also been a couple new tools for creating tons of mana. Cabal Stronghold and Magus of the Coffers are both alternatives to Cabal Coffers if you are working on a budget. Even if you aren't, they can produce a staggering amount of mana in this deck, especially when you have them and Cabal Coffers. If all that still isn’t enough, we can just start paying life: Bolas's Citadel lets us cast spells from off the top of our deck, and lets us do this for life instead of mana, while K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth does the same for spells in our hand. These are both powerful effects that let us play fast, as long as we don't mind sitting comfortably close to the brink of disaster.

Bolas's Citadel also happens to combo with Haunted Crossroads and Phyrexian Altar to continually cast a creature from the top of our deck. If that creature is Gray Merchant of Asphodel or Kokusho, the Evening Star you both recoup the life lost and win the game. This combo isn't something I was building for, but it is a good sign that the deck has enough synergy to regularly set up an engine and grind out value with Tetzimoc.

Updated Tetzimoc

Commander (1)
Creatures (25)
Sorceries (11)
Instants (4)
Enchantments (6)
Artifacts (15)
Planeswalkers (2)
Lands (36)

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This started out as a deck that could easily set up an engine that would grind our opponents out of the game. We still have the same slow gameplan, but new cards give us the ability to move quickly when we need to. Adding in more tutors means it's even easier to get the engine going, and gives immediate access to the right answer for any given board state. Sanctum of Eternity in particular feels like it adds a ton to the deck. The land doubles the number of bounce effects we have for Tetzimoc, Primal Death, and rivals Command Beacon as our go-to target for Expedition Map and other early tutors. Hopefully it helps push Tetzimoc a little more into the spotlight. He has a really interesting political effect that can passively gain you a ton of advantage throughout the game.

What new cards from C19 have you most excited? Are they any commanders you had previously passed over you might give a second chance? Let me know in the comments!

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.