When someone says their Commander is Zur the Enchanter, the usual response is everyone else sighs and rolls their eyes. The most popular (and probably most efficient) use for Zur is to suit him up with a ton of powerful Auras and attack for the kill. However, not only is that strategy boring to play against, it’s also just one of a huge number of possibilities for a Zur the Enchanter Commander deck. In this article, I’m going to give a brief overview of several of those possibilities.
Before we get into specific deck ideas, I want to cover a few Enchantments which cost three or less that should be considered for any deck with Zur as its Commander.
First and foremost, Zur’s ability relies on attacking with him to trigger it. Because of this, we should include some safeguards against him dying in combat. Zur can find Unquestioned Authority as soon as it becomes necessary, ensuring that no creatures can block him (or deal damage to him, or target him, etc). Plus, it draws us a card when it enters the battlefield! Reconnaissance offers a little less protection, but it allows us to remove Zur (or any creature we control) from combat as soon as things look unfavorable for us.
Any Commander deck needs the ability to deal with problematic permanents. Zur can handle this by finding cards like Oblivion Ring, Detention Sphere, and Banishing Light to exile anything that’s causing us problems. Imprisoned in the Moon and Darksteel Mutation deal with someone else’s Commander in a way that makes it difficult to recast them immediately. If there are no immediate threats, Zur can also find Seal of Cleansing or Seal of Doom to bank a removal effect for later.
No matter what strategy we’re playing, Estrid’s Invocation and the new card Mirrormade are Enchantments that Zur can find which are anything we want them to be! Whatever we want another of, Zur can find it for us in the form of one of these cards.
Begin the Cycle
The first theme I want to talk about is Cycling. There are enough good cards with Cycling to fill out a Commander deck easily, and Zur can dig out some of our best payoff cards: Astral Slide, Drake Haven, Faith of the Devoted, and Astral Drift can all be found by Zur’s ability. These cards provide a huge amount of value each time we cycle a card, and should keep us in the mix long enough to find New Perspectives or Fluctuator to start truly “going off” and overwhelming our opponents with value and card advantage.
A supporting cast of non-cycling cards can round out this deck to make it a real powerhouse. Bone Miser gives us extra value each time we cycle a card; lands give mana for more cycles, creatures give us board presence, and other card types give us a whole extra card! If we want to get a little bit meaner, Words of Waste can be tutored out by Zur’s ability, and it lets us replace any card we would draw with “Each opponent discards a card.” This is a powerful (and very rude) way to maximize the effects of the card advantage this deck generates.
The next theme I want to talk about is Snow. This one is a little shaky in the “card support” department, but I think there is just enough to make it work. Zur can find Marit Lage’s Slumber, Cover of Winter, Gelid Shackles, On Thin Ice, and Winter’s Rest (and Rime Transfusion but that card kind of stinks). With a mana base full of Snow lands, it should not be difficult to reach ten Snow permanents and start attacking with an indestructible, flying 20/20.
There aren’t a ton of Snow cards that are “Commander playable” on their own, so the rest of the deck needs to have a backup theme. I decided to go with Cumulative Upkeep, because Zur can find Solemnity for us! Wall of Shards and Phyrexian Soulgorger are Snow permanents with incredible stats for their mana cost. With Solemnity to negate their cumulative upkeep costs, we never have to worry about whether to keep them around.
Zur can also find non-snow enchantments with cumulative upkeeps. Mystic Remora is a great source of card advantage, since it’s unlikely our opponents will want to pay four extra mana very often. Energy Storm stops burn spells and keeps flying creatures tapped down (which we can get around with Reconnaissance). Mesmeric Trance lets us filter cards for cheap, keeping our hand filled with things we want to have. Inner Sanctum prevents all damage to creatures we control, keeping our commander and other creatures safe. Finally, Tidal Control lets anyone counter any red or green spell for two life or two mana. If you have a friend who plays a particularly oppressive red and/or green deck, Tidal Control is a great way to show them how you feel.
The rest of the cumulative upkeep cards that are worth playing can’t be found with Zur’s ability, but the value we get from them with Solemnity on the battlefield makes them worthwhile. Survivor of the Unseen gives us card draw and filtering, Sustaining Spirit and Glacial Chasm keep us from dying to damage, and Infernal Darkness can lock our non-black opponents out of the game.
This deck will not be popular with your play group, but at least it’s more interesting than Zur Voltron..?
If you’re unaware of the terminology, many Magic players refer to cards with high toughness as having a “big butt.” In that sense, this deck is all about creatures with big butts, and Zur Mix-A-Lot likes big butts (and he cannot lie, I guess, but that doesn’t really come into play mechanically). The key piece of this deck is High Alert, which Zur can tutor out when he attacks . It allows our high-toughness creatures to deal damage using their butts rather than their power, which turns creatures like Indomitable Ancients into an incredible value for their cost.
Theros block introduced a large number of Enchantment Creatures, many of which Zur can get out of our library for free! Even better, many of them have higher toughness than power: Nyx-Fleece Ram, Eidolon of Rhetoric, Grim Guardian, Riptide Chimera, and Harvestguard Alseids can all be found with Zur’s ability, and they all benefit from High Alert. Other Enchantment Creatures like Underworld Coinsmith, Archetype of Courage, Aegis of the Gods, Eidolon of Countless Battles, and Nighthowler have normal-sized butts, but their abilities are powerful and Zur can get them out of our library and onto the battlefield for free. If money is no issue, Thassa, God of the Sea and Athreos, God of Passage are great to get out with Zur as well.
Zur can find several good utility enchantments for this strategy as well:Behind the Scenes can make our creatures nearly unblockable, Brave the Sands lets us use our creatures for attack and defense, and Angelic Shield, Fortifying Provisions, Lumithread Field, and Parapet all buff our creatures (without ruining the effectiveness of Behind the Schenes).
Zur may not be able to grab Meishin, the Mind Cage for us, but if we can stick it to the battlefield our creatures should be the only ones dealing damage. Dusk // Dawn will destroy our opponents’ most dangerous creatures and leave most of ours alone, plus its Aftermath can reload our hand if someone else clears the battlefield. Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive makes several of our creatures unblockable. Mentor of the Meek provides card draw opportunities when most of our creatures enter the battlefield.
If you’re wondering “what happens if an opponent gets rid of High Alert?” don’t worry, we have another win condition: Phenax, God of Deception turns each of our creatures into a powerful mill engine, and Zur can find Fraying Sanity to double up mill on your most dangerous foe (or just that jerk who got rid of High Alert).
And Much More!
If you can think of a tricky strategy that’s enabled by just one cheap enchantment, Zur the Enchanter is your man. He’s the king of “It just might work.” The Prince of “…possibly?” The Sultan of “I suppose…”
So get brewing! Pick a really specific enchantment and build a jank pile with a huge Achilles Heel. See what you can accomplish when you put all your faith in one card. Tune in next time, when I use Zur in order to grab Hedron Alignment, just as a display of dominance!