Nearly Identical - Henzie or Ziatora?
(Back for More | Art by Daarken)
Unleash the Beast
Hello! Welcome to another installment of Nearly Identical, a series where I take a look at two commanders with similar designs and archetypes, figure out what sets them apart, and help you find your next commander. Today, I'm taking a look back all the way to Streets of New Capenna and comparing two powerful Jund commanders: Henzie "Toolbox" Torre and Ziatora, the Incinerator.
Jund offers the perfect blend of the kind of chaos we want: green for the stompy creatures we want to bring down, red to burn and deal tons of damage to our opponents, and black to reanimate our threats and do it all over again. When Henzie and Ziatora were previewed, it was pretty clear that these were strong and efficient commanders that enabled the exact thing Jund Sacrifice decks want to do, and both benefit you for playing these high-powered, high-mana-cost creatures that would otherwise be difficult to get down, much less build multiple into a single deck.
Henzie offers an alternate cost to casting creatures with mana value four or greater, allowing them to come down and attack sooner than they should, but we'll lose them at the end of the turn and draw a card. Ziatora, on the other hand, will let us Fling creatures and will even give us three Treasures for doing so. Drawing cards or making Treasures are both great ways to recover from losing a creature, and it helps us keep our momentum going in the game.
While we won't need to have every creature that has a death trigger, Atsushi, the Blazing Sky is an example of a creature that we want to sacrifice, as it'll actually benefit us when it does. The same goes for Solemn Simulacrum. While we don't need Solemn in our green decks, he works smoothly in Henzie, coming down for three mana and drawing us two cards at the end of turn. Disciple of Bolas is another good example of what other synergies we can have if we're already planning on sacrificing creatures in the first place.
Based on data provided by MtGDS, Henzie and Ziatora have a similarity coefficient of 81%, so for any card that can be found in a Henzie deck, there's an 81% chance that that same card is also in a Ziatora deck. We were offered a lot of new Jund cards in Streets of New Capenna, and out of all the Jund commanders they made, these two were the ones that captured player's attention, but how do we plan on defining them?
For Henzie, I wanted to focus more on the graveyard and add more reanimation synergies, giving us a clear line to victory, and for Ziatora, I thought it'd be fun if Ziatora flung artifact creatures that would break and turn into scrap metal (aka Treasure) that Ziatora then used to make more artifact creatures. It's a bit more thematic than Henzie, but I still think there are some cool things we can do with him. But first, let's see what we're including in Henzie "Toolbox" Torre.
How better to break Etali, Primal Storm than to make it cheaper to cast and give it haste? Etali can provide a huge swing if we manage to get anything off the top of everyone's library. Plus, it's not the worst thing in the world to sacrifice it the end of the turn, given that Etali probably wouldn't be allowed stick around anyway. She's premier removal bait.
Giant Adephage is also another terrifying creature that gets dangerous with haste, and since it has trample, we're almost guaranteed to have it deal combat damage to at least one player and get a second Adephage that will stick around. Finally, Jaxis, the Troublemaker acts as our second Blitz-enabler by copying one creature and giving that token copy haste and Blitz.
Back for More looks like a good reanimation effect that can surprise an opponent. We can reanimate a creature to fight something else, get a blocker, a useful ETB, or get a creature on someone's end step so that we can untap with it, like an Avenger of Zendikar and all the Plant tokens it'll make. Six mana is a lot to hold up, but if we know we're wanting to get something out at instant speed, it could prove to be effective.
Ancient Brass Dragon can come down fast and possibly reanimate multiple creatures from our graveyard to the battlefield. We might whiff, but being able to Blitz it is better than hard casting it and then possibly getting removed. Finally, we plan to win with cards like Living Death and Rise of the Dark Realms that can bring a huge swing to our gameplan. Here's the list!
Henzie, the Debt CollectorView on Archidekt
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Our Scrap Metal
Now to Ziatora! How would we go about building this Dragon Demon?
Our main gameplan is to throw artifact creatures at our opponents or other creatures. If we're planning on losing some creatures, then we can include powerhouse artifact creatures, like Wurmcoil Engine, that'll make us tokens when they die. There are others similar to Wurmcoil with this effect, such as Triplicate Titan and Phyrexian Triniform. These will all give us creature tokens that will then either be fodder for Ziatora or decent attackers. This makes up the basic idea of what we want to be doing, but what type of value can we find in an artifact-focused Ziatora build?
Mimic Vat will trigger when anything dies, so if our opponents have anything worth stealing, we can kill it with Ziatora, then pay three with the Treasures we get and make a copy of the creature. Or, since we have so many big creatures of our own, we can simply make new token copies of Wurmcoil and then fling it with Ziatora, that way we still get the two tokens it makes before the copy would be exiled.
With all the artifacts and Treasures coming into play, Dragonspark Reactor will rack up a ton of charge counters and make our opponents sweat. Four mana to just remove one creature isn't always the best play, but being able to also deal that damage to an opponent as well, on top of Ziatora's ability, could easily kill the biggest threat at the table. Wire Surgeons is a card I've wanted to find a home for since it was printed, and it fits beautifully here. Any creature we've sacrificed can now come back with Encore, not only getting as many copies of that creature equal to the number of opponents, but also getting to fling them again with Ziatora. Plus, since so many of our creatures have death triggers, anyway, that we'll overwhelm the board with our creatures. While these all sound like great things the deck can do, how do we finish the game?
With the number of Treasures we can get, getting to twenty artifacts with Hellkite Tyrant shouldn't be an issue, but if we can't get there, being able to steal artifacts might be a necessary evil that can help push us forward. We continue with the Encore theme with Fathom Fleet Swordjack, which can be brought back from the dead and deal damage to our opponents equal to how many artifacts we have. This is a sneaky wincon that more artifact-focus decks should be running. Finally, Swashbuckler Extraordinaire offers us the chance to win through combat by giving one or more creatures double strike. Ziatora is a 6/6 flier, so giving him double strike isn't something to sleep on.
And here's the deck! This was pretty fun to work on and see it all come together. Initially, Ziatora didn't grab me at all, especially amongst all the other Treasure stuff going on at the time, but giving it a bit more of a theme and flavor helped bring out a more fun and synergistic deck.
Ziatora's Scrap MetalView on Archidekt
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Henzie "Toolbox" Torre has amassed 4,600 decks on EDHREC just before the year's end, making him the third most built Jund commander, and it's easy to see why. In a way, he does provide ramp and card draw, and having both tacked on to a commander has proven to be strong, e.g., Prosper, Tome-Bound. But it's specific in that we're only getting that value by playing high-mana-value creatures, and I haven't even mentioned the fact that the cost reduction gets better the more we cast him, so we're not even upset if he gets removed.
Ziatora, the Incinerator is the 5th most built Jund commanders with 3,500 decks. These two came out at the same time, so why is one more popular than the other?
The first conclusion is simply that Henzie was the front-facing commander for the Riveteers Precon deck. I think that answer would be simple enough, but I do think there are other factors in play. Henzie's a cheaper commander to cast that does allow you to play higher mana creatures. He exemplifies what a Timmy commander looks like. That play pattern probably captured more players' attention than another commander that makes Treasures, and Ziatora being six mana to cast is sometimes enough for players to not even bother.
But what do you think? Which commander do you enjoy more? Do you prefer to reanimate your massive creatures? Or fling your strongest artifacts and making tons of Treasures? Let me know in the comments below!