Deckbuilding – Getting Cozy with Kozilek

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Hey Commander players! Today I’m going to break down an older deck I built right at the beginning of my Commander days. It’s actually the very first Commander deck that I built, or at least the evolution of it. It’s based on Kozilek, the Great Distortion which means it’s true colourless and runs nasty Eldrazi titans.

I played Magic in the 90s, and then picked it up again around Battle for Zendikar. I loved the Eldrazi from the get-go, but had a much harder time with the available gameplay. I’ve never been much for Standard. At the time it was all Fetchlands, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Collected Company. BFZ added Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, which dominated Standard until it rotated. The bar for entry was always some playset of $40+ cards. Minimum. Even worse, the really cool swath of new Eldrazi introduced in BFZ were almost completely unplayed. I resorted to a terrible kitchen table Cloudpost thing that had no real plan beyond playing big beaters for a while, and then went looking for something else. That’s when I found Commander.

It was actually before Oath of the Gatewatch was released, and I was looking at building an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn deck for some rule 0, archenemy-style fun for kitchen tables. I wasn’t really serious about Commander at the time, but the deckbuilding appealed to me. Especially since there were no playable basics for such a deck. Searching Magic’s history for cool colourless lands was my first of many deep dives. I got hooked quickly. It was even much cheaper to assemble all the best Eldrazi than to get 4 copies of the key Standard staples.

After a few rounds with Emrakul where 15 mana was just too much to shoot for in a reasonable game, and one notable 3rd turn Blood Moon where it was all Mountains for the rest of the short game, I started looking ahead to the recently spoiled Wastes and my Commander of the future, Kozilek, the Great Distortion. That’s enough leadup, here’s the deck. It’s on Archidekt, too.

The Eldrazi Menace

Commander (1)
Kozilek, the Great Distortion

Creatures (20)
Artisan of Kozilek
Bane of Bala Ged
Burnished Hart
Clone Shell
Conduit of Ruin
Desolation Twin
Emrakul, the Promised End
Endbringer
Etched Champion
It That Betrays
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Oblivion Sower
Pathrazer of Ulamog
Silent Arbiter
Solemn Simulacrum
Summoner’s Egg
Ulamog’s Crusher
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
Void Winnower

Artifacts (33)
Akroma’s Memorial
Basalt Monolith
Blinkmoth Urn
Clock of Omens
Colfenor’s Urn
Dreamstone Hedron
Everflowing Chalice
Expedition Map
Gilded Lotus
Guardian Idol
Hedron Archive
Honor-Worn Shaku
Inspiring Statuary
Lightning Greaves
Mana Vault
Mind Stone
Nevinyrral’s Disk
Powder Keg
Quicksilver Amulet
Ratchet Bomb
Sol Ring
Staff of Nin
Swiftfoot Boots
Thought Vessel
Thran Dynamo
Unstable Obelisk
Unwinding Clock
Urza’s Incubator
Voltaic Key
Ward of Bones
Wayfarer’s Bauble
Whispersilk Cloak
Worn Powerstone

Sorceries (1)
All Is Dust

Instants (4)
Not of This World
Scour from Existence
Titan’s Presence
Warping Wail

Planeswalkers (2)
Ugin, the Ineffable
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Lands (39)
Ancient Tomb
Arch of Orazca
Blasted Landscape
Buried Ruin
Cloudpost
Cryptic Caves
Crystal Vein
Dark Depths
Deserted Temple
Eldrazi Temple
Emergence Zone
Endless Sands
Eye of Ugin
Field of Ruin
Ghost Quarter
Glimmerpost
Haven of the Spirit Dragon
High Market
Inventors’ Fair
Mage-Ring Network
Mystifying Maze
Nephalia Academy
Rogue’s Passage
Sanctum of Ugin
Scavenger Grounds
Scorched Ruins
Sea Gate Wreckage
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
Temple of the False God
Thespian’s Stage
Tomb of the Spirit Dragon
Urza’s Mine
Urza’s Power Plant
Urza’s Tower
Wastes

Prior to the release of Wastes, using cards like Burnished Hart and Wayfarer’s Bauble to ramp wasn’t a thing. No Solemn Simulacrum either. I got used to trying to eke out extra mana from cards like the Tron lands, Crystal Vein and even Deserted Temple in combination with a full-power Urza’s Tower or Scorched Ruins. I played Lotus Bloom for a while, and was trying to cheat things into play a lot more with Belbe’s Portal and Thran Temporal Gateway.

But that’s what the deck does. It counts to ten as fast as possible then casts Kozilek, or cheats on mana some other way. Honestly I could cut everything but the mana rocks and answers and make the plan to ramp to Kozi every game, and hold off the table with pseudo-counterspells, but I wanted to play all the big Eldrazi for the fun of it. Of course not everybody considers Eldrazi to be fun. Personally I hate the Annihilator ability on guys like Ulamog’s Crusher and I’m not alone. Bane of Bala Ged offers a newer take on that ability, but it still sucks a lot. The consolation of a deck like this is that it leans heavily into the heel role, and is probably going to play 1 on 3 most games.

I’ve run into people playing other Eldrazi as Commanders, mostly Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Kozilek, Butcher of Truth. The double exile on Ula is great, as is the indestructible, but without evasion or any defense against spells, Ula can be chumped, tapped down, and worst of all, stolen. Old Kozi is also great, as a guaranteed draw 4, with that nasty annihilator ability, but the reshuffle ability is wasted, and again, there’s no protection from spells. Colourless-only leaves you with very few answers. So I built around Kozilek, the Great Distortion as the best choice. Here’s 3 major reasons why.

First, both Kozileks have the advantage on Ulamog and nearly every other creature in Magic in that they are a 2-turn Commander damage clock. Double strike and it’s over. I don’t play Fireshrieker and I cut Hedron Matrix ages ago, because I want to try and go a little wide, but those will get the job done in a hurry. I do continue to play Silent Arbiter and Whispersilk Cloak for quick, but answerable kills.

Second, having your Commander draw cards on cast is insane. The 4 from the Butcher of Truth is great, but a deck that is able to empty its hand with piles of mana rocks and other artifacts can leverage the draw X of the Great Distortion to a greater degree. It’s a tricky balance, because you want to leverage another thing also, which puts Kozilek completely over the top of the other options….

The most powerful thing Kozilek, the Great Distortion does is protect himself. The discard-for-counterspell ability allows the Eldrazi player to load up on things like mana rocks, knowing that derpy stuff like Ur-Golem’s Eye and Kyren Toy can be a hard answer to a wide variety of premium spells once Kozi hits the table. The Kozi player can also counter things liberally, because a hand refill awaits if the Commander is killed and recast. It’s worth a mention too that the Great Distortion is also the least dangerous to have stolen or copied, and if copied is unlikely to result in an opponent discarding a CMC 10+ card to counter your titans.

I haven’t played this deck much in recent years. It’s not popular with opponents, draws tons of hate, and gets really wrecked by dedicated artifact destruction. But it in turn wrecks tables, and sometimes drops titans so early and so often that other decks just Crumble. The Ugins are super-strong, and every now and again you get to fool around with Marit Lage from Dark Depths, either with Thespian’s Stage or paying the mana cost! I’d definitely add stuff like Blast Zone, Skyclave Relic and Lithoform Engine if I was actively playing it, and I’m sure there are dozens of new cards that would fit right in.

As far as older cards, I never had a Homeward Path to add, and the deck needs that. Manifold Key should be in there, too. Grim Monolith was always just a shade too expensive, and then wayyyyy too expensive, but if you have one…. I’d re-add my Miren, the Moaning Well and look at Geier Reach Sanitarium, Mikokoro, Center of the Sea and even Throne of the High City for even more card draw. The deck is also really light on CMC 5 cards, which might be an issue in your meta if that’s where your opponent’s business spells or sweepers are at. I’d also do a deep dive on any discard payoffs available. Library of Leng would get a look for sure. And another deep dive on colourless ramp. It’s always good to remember that while Wastes are basics, they do not have a type, and cannot be fetched by something that requires the basics to have a basic type, specifically Myriad Landscape.

As bad a rap as Eldrazi get, playing with or against this deck can be fun. There’s cool tech like Summoner’s Egg and Clone Shell, surprising powerhouses like Ward of Bones and Inspiring Statuary and the endgame to end all endgames. I feel like it really captures the feel of the Eldrazi titans, and inspires opponents to make Allies. General Tazri and company would approve. And hey, if you’re like me and you enjoyed the Attack on Titan anime series, this might be really up your alley. Thanks for reading! Your life matters! Black Lives Matter!

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