Looking at Isperia, Supreme Judge in Commander - Ravnica Theme
Sometimes you have a reason to build a deck that has nothing to do with the deck. I frequent large MtG events occasionally, and recently was trying to spend my prize-wall tickets at my last Magicfest and had no clue what to get. Then I saw that the Azorius Guild Kit was on sale for exactly the amount of tickets I had left! How could I say no?
Isperia is an interesting Commander to begin with, offering a reasonable body and a generically defensive ability. She discourages people from attacking not only you, but planeswalkers you control as well. There are a ton of ways you can go with a Commander that demands nothing from you, but I had all these sweet Guild basics and all these cards with the Azorius Guild Symbol as the set symbol just lying around. I had to build a deck that used these sweet swag pickups to their fullest potential.
Unfortunately, a lot of them sucked. How could I justify putting these terrible cards in my deck? I know! I’ll add the restriction that (besides lands) all 99 of my cards had to be Azorious-themed. This didn’t just mean that they needed to be from a Ravnica set, it meant that they had to fit flavorfully with what Isperia wanted to do. This meant no Cyclonic Rift, no Wrath of God, no Propaganda. Just good, old-fashioned, rules.
Now, the first thing I did was create a list of cards so Azorius that they’d be the cards I’d try to theme the deck around. Those were:
There are a ton of cards included in this list just for flavor, but these five also required some build-around help to make them make any sense. Luckily, three of them combined powerfully together!
I have won most of my games with this deck with Azor’s Elocutors. Once you get a Dovescape down, effects like Palliation Accord and Jace, Architect of Thought mean that you are protected from your opponents’ noncreature spells and birds and can block their larger creatures with your birds. This makes it extremely easy to just stall the game out and win eventually with Filibuster counters.
Dovin’s Acuity was also relatively straightforward, where I just included many of the newly printed Addendum cards from Ravnica Allegiance to turn this dopey enchantment into a powerful card-draw engine. Additionally, many instants like Fact or Fiction or Azorius Charm are happy to be simply cashed in on your main phase.
Finally, Windreaver is the card I’ve gotten the most flak for, but I stand by its inclusion. While it is over-costed, it is so quintessentially Azorius in flavor that I had to include it. I also slightly shifted my headcanon to include Brightling and Aetherling as parts of the Azorius Guild so Windreaver didn’t look so out-of-place and I could play some other sticky threats that dodge removal and attack through most boards.
Next, I’m simply going to run through a bunch of my favorite inclusions in the deck that I have been impressed by. These cards are ones I likely wouldn’t have played without the restriction but that I’ve greatly enjoyed winning with.
Some of these are ones I’ve seen others play but was unimpressed by, but really over-performed when I actually put them on the table. Render Silent and Azor, the Lawbringer seem like slightly over-costed versions of other spells (Counterspell and Sphinx’s Revelation), but both of them have extra text that has mattered MUCH more than I ever expected. Just having random cards that don’t suck and have added text that sometimes hoses people is pretty powerful.
In a similar vein, Lavinia, Azorius Renegade, Dovin, Hand of Control, Azorius Skyguard, and Azorius Guildmage are all cards that have random hoser text, but honestly aren’t very good besides. These cards weren’t all-stars, but I did win games off each of them because their random taxing effect kept me from dying too quickly. Lavinia did her duty keeping a Saheeli, the Gifted player from turn 4 putting an Ugin into play. Dovin kept a Vial-Smasher, the Fierce locked down while slowing down a Mizzix opponent from comboing off (double duty). Azorius Skyguard has combined with Jace, Architect of Thought, Palliation Accord, and Dovescape at multiple points to turn this 6 mana 3/3 into a bonafide lock-piece. And Azorius Guildmage single-handedly took down a Superfriends player who simply could not get card advantage rolling when I could turn off their Loyalty abilities.
Dovin, Architect of Law, Jace, the Living Guildpact, and Archon of the Triumvirate were all much more playable than I expected them to be. Dovin may be from a planeswalker deck, but he has a powerful mix of card-draw and protection abilities that just help you keep your wheels spinning. Jace is a weird card in this deck, and while I wouldn’t play him without a compelling reason, Isperia’s text is a compelling reason. Since he has basically no impact on the board with his +1 and no one wants you to draw off Isperia triggers, he frequently gets to high loyalty and I’ve ulted him not once, but three times because my opponents have simply ignored him for too long. Finally, Archon of the Triumvirate looks like an over-costed flyer, but it’s ability is shockingly backbreaking. Untapping with this big boy in play is not easy, but it makes game SO much easier to win once you do.
My last list I’m going over is the cards that are terrible. These cards are ones that you really should cut if you don’t have this strange restriction on your deck.
I don’t want to talk to long about these cards. They have effects and I’ve won games when I’ve cast them, but they’re all either severely over-costed or just have effects that are not impactful. However, I am a servant of flavor and if the lore says Dovin, Grand Arbiter runs the Azorius, who am I to not include him in my deck?
I started building this deck simply because I wanted to use the cool basic lands I opened but honestly had a ton of fun playing it. I was shocked to discover that even though I picked these cards solely for flavor, they synergized so well together and I won more games than I ever expected to with this pile. Isperia is a cool Commander and honestly the Guild Kits are some of my favorite products WotC has ever released.
You can look forward to a Commander review of Modern Horizons once we have more of the spoiler, as there’s lots of juicy stuff in this new set for Commander as well.
Until next time.
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