Shape Anew - Zur's Rebels

(Zur the Enchanter | Art by Pete Venters)

Rebel Without a Cause

Greetings, fellow EDH addicts. Welcome to another iteration of Shape Anew, where we will create a decklist around super popular commanders, but must use at least 40 cards not featured on their EDHREC main page! Different strategies are explored to find original strategies for these popular commanders. This month, it’s time for none other than:

Enchanted by a Commander

More than a year ago, I wrote an article in which I made one of the silliest decks I've ever created; it was also one of my favorites. The deck made use of a wide variety of Changelings and all their neat interactions, but it tied into a problem that a lot of unique deck concepts suffer from:

The A / B Strategy

The idea here is that a lot of strategies need two specific parts to work. The most famous examples are probably two-card combos, like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Pestermite. Either part of the combo is useless, but the combination is where the deck really shines (or instantly wins). The problem for Commander decks is that, due to the singleton nature of the format, you will often lack either A or B. This is often what set casual decks apart from more streamlined decks. Consistency is key.

That brings me to my previous Changeling deck: a clear example of the A (Changelings) / B (tribal synergies) principle. I have tinkered with numerous versions of the deck, desperate to make it work (consistently). Then I realized something: I need to shift my focus. I need to… rebel.

A big part of an A / B strategy deck are tutors. Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of tutors in Commander, as they can often make games feel samey. Today, however, we’re going all-in. Rebels who find each other, helmed by Zur the Enchanter, who finds us even more goodies. Our friend Zur is often associated with unfair enchantments like Necropotence or discard enablers like Drake Haven. Today, however, Zur will show the world that he can rebel as well.


Building a strong mana curve is fundamental for a functioning Commander deck; with Rebels, this is doubly so. Not only do we want to be able to sequentially cast our friends, but we also want to be able to sequentially tutor for them. Let’s have a look at the current list of Rebel tutors as they appear on our curve.

Kicking off, Ramosian Sergeant is the one one-drop Rebel we play. Dropping her on turn one sets us up perfectly for our first turn three tutor, going off from there.

Our most cramped-up Rebel tutor spot is at two mana, and contains Amrou Scout, Blightspeaker, Defiant Falcon and Ramosian Lieutenant. They will be able to tutor for our most important pieces. However, keep in mind that, without ramping up, we’ll only be able to start tutoring on turn four. Because of that, it could be better to save the Rebel for turn three and play a turn two ramp spell, instead. Besides our tutoring friends, we also play some utility creatures in this slot. Amoeboid Changeling works with various cards in our deck to turn into a killing machine (more on that later). Unsettled Mariner does the best job it can protecting our squad. Shapesharer serves as a second copy of… something. We may we need it.

Already the tutor well is running dry, with Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero and Ramosian Captain remaining. Lin Sivvi does make up for that by basically making future tutors cheapers, as well as resetting a Rebel or two into our library.

At three mana, we enter the true identity of the deck. Rebel Informer and Mercenary Informer can save our own creatures, but also get rid of our opponents’ (remember, Amoeboid Changeling is in our deck too). Big Game Hunter is another candidate for the hunt, and Venomous Changeling can easily take out a creature attacking us. Mirror Entity tutored for at the end of a turn can easily turn the tide and enable a devastating alpha strike. As you see, three mana is where it’s at.

Closing off, we have Graveshifter and Ramosian Revivalist, mostly here to get back any Rebels who died for the cause. This might seem like a small pool for a card like Ramosian Sergeant to pull from, but remember that she can easily find someone her own size too.

Always remember to wait unit the last possible moment to activate the Rebels. Information is key, and every turn our enemies provide us with more. Big Game Hunter becomes a much more appealing tutor subject when Atraxa, Praetors' Voice hits an opponent’s battlefield. Another tip is to not overextend, or more explicitly: "Thou shall not cast Rebels in thine hand if thou canst fetch them from thine library." Keeping a decent hand size is crucial when playing a creature-centric deck, and having a decent hand size can deter numerous foe from messing with you.

But how do we win with Rebels? The key is in these two cards: Outrider en-Kor and Task Force. Together they combine to give infinite toughness to our whole board. Only ever play them out together, as either one will heavily signal that you’re about to win.

Wait, infinite toughness? Not infinite power? That's not a victory condition. How does that help us win?

Zur’s Enchantments

We cannot forget our commander! Zur the Enchanter provides us with numerous possibilities to enhance our core strategy. What to do with infinite toughness? Well, we could gain infinite life with either Arguel's Blood Fast or Animal Boneyard, or choose to deal infinite damage with Gauntlets of Light; how about a Behind the Scenes or Cover of Darkness to get those creatures through enemy lines?

Keen readers might’ve noticed something: we set out to avoid an A / B strategy, but instead we’ve stumbled upon something even wackier:

The A / B / C Strategy.

Fear not! Every part of our strategy is tutorable by either our Rebels or Zur himself. Even in a 99-card singleton format, that has to count for something.

But there’s more! Zur doesn't just help us find enchantments to help win the game, but can also aid in case of an emergency, either when somebody else is trying to win (how dare they) or somebody has stopped us from winning (how dare they). We are nothing if not versatile, so we can reanimate our essential pieces with a Necromancy or Animate Dead, and eliminate our opponents' essential pieces with a simple Imprisoned in the Moon or Detention Sphere, all without playing a single spell from our hand.

Furthermore, Zur is able to help us set things in motion. Training Grounds makes all the Rebel tutoring effects so much cheaper. Arcane Adaptation makes our tutoring effects so much more effective. Unnatural Selection helps our tutoring effects specifically find Rebel Informer or Mercenary Informer. I love that interaction.


As any players familiar with Zur the Enchanter might know, he doesn’t tend to stick around very long. So, except for our tutoring redundancy, we need some further backup to finish the combo. Although these aren’t fetchable with our tutoring squad, they do decrease the number of pieces we have to tutor for.

A special mention goes to Lightning Greaves, which not only protects our creatures and gives them haste (relevant for both Rebels and Zur), but also works with Daru Spiritualist as combo piece part B (as long as we have two or more creatures).

Further consistency is given by the inclusion of Aphetto Dredging, or even Angel of Glory's Rise (a considerable amount of our creatures are Human, as well as combo pieces).

Smoothing Out

Nobody likes to die before they’ve been able to make some sweet plays, so let’s decrease the likelihood of the former and increase the latter! Dying is prevented by some countermeasures: Rewind and Unwind. We could honestly play a whole bunch more, because we’re holding our mana open for the tutoring Rebels anyway, but the deck has only so much room. The great thing about these counterspells is that they keep our mana up, and thus keep our possibilities open.

Increasing our tempo and consistency is mainly done by ramping. Again, there’s less room in this deck for it than I’d like. Cards like Thran Turbine (which is basically a Sol Ring for activated abilities) can give us our combo a turn or two earlier. I’m also a fan of Preordain and Ponder to help us smooth our draws to find the lands, tutors, or even combo pieces more reliably.

Playing the Deck

I loved diving deep into a ‘mechanic’ like Rebels. The space opened up by being able to rely on certain cards coming out is amazing for deckbuilding. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not the biggest fan of tutors in Commander. Still, it was fun to go all-in, for once.

These nonland cards in the deck don’t appear on Zur's EDHREC main page:

The deck wins out of nowhere. I know that’s a big problem players often have when facing a combo deck, so if it isn’t your cup of tea, I won’t try to convince you otherwise. In this case, I just love it when a plan comes together. The deck works because it’s not only pinpointed to win through a certain interaction of cards that can all be tutored for, but also because those same tutors fetch interaction with the board as well. I feel this deck is less linear than most combo decks. I would certainly like to invite you to at least try it (as it’s quite budget).

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Oh, and don’t mind the abundance of basic lands. I like to just add the lands that have some sort of synergy with the deck, and leave the color-fixing lands to be dealer’s choice. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to the mana base, anyway, so basics are a clean field that folks can season to taste.

Your Turn

Rebels, I’ve found, are very mana hungry. So much so that I wonder how much better they would fare with a splash of green in the deck. I’m not just talking ramp; untapping all lands with Wilderness Reclamation or Seedborn Muse is amazing (the latter even untapping the Rebels for a second round). One could even get cheeky and add a Biomancer’s Familiar to the bunch for even more activation discount.

So, for those interested, here’s an interesting challenge:

“Build a Rebel deck including green.”

I am very keen to see what you can come up with. If you have any results you’d like to share, you can send it to me via twitter or reddit (@ellogeyen and /u/ellogeyen). I’m open to any comments and discussion regarding the content of the article as well.

Next month, we’ll cast a die! See you then!

Willem-Jan is a true Melvin; nothing is more beautiful than the mechanical interactions of the card on the battlefield. The scarcer the better. His favourite interaction? The one where he beats his opponents. Willem-Jan can be found on twitter @ellogeyen

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