"It's the must-have gift for everyone on your list. Get one for yourself, too!" — Chammi, curio vendor
Zedruu the Greathearted is a unique Commander capable of some very cool and/or very mean things. For every deck that I see that does some cool stuff with Zedruu to draw some extra cards and gain a little life, there is always somebody who is donating Celestial Dawn to the non-white players to lock them out of the game. When I first decided that I wanted to make a deck with Zedruu at the helm, I told myself from the getgo that I wouldn't be "that" guy.
I still wanted something that could be semi-competitive and have a coherent theme or themes. I thought I could do this with the inclusion of some chaos-inducing cards while mixing in some strictly fun elements like random effects and coin-flip abuse. Although these themes were fun, it didn't really feel like I was taking full advantage of Zedruu. Couple that with truly awkward situations (getting a Ral Zarek with 7 loyatly and my Krark's Thumb stolen with my own Confusion in the Ranks and getting quadruple time walked... derf), and some times when there was no way to extricate myself from the situation I put myself in (like trying to figure out exactly what will happen if I tried to play a kicked Rite of Replication with both Grip of Chaos and Confusion in the Ranks in play given the creatures on the battlefield).
So what I ended up doing was going back to the drawing board and trying out a few themes that didn't make the original cut. The one that seems to have stuck the most is that of exchanging control of permanents, then sacrificing the opponent's stuff for profit. This was originally a theme that I had begun to develop for what I was hoping to be a Brion Stoutarm deck that never came to fruition, but it seemed like a much more perfect fit for Zedruu where I could not only just steal stuff but exchange control of stuff so as to widen my options.
The deck has many ways of exchanging control and/or outright stealing the opponents creatures, only to sacrifice them for damage or some other effect. Furthermore, the creatures I give them either do them no good or come right back to me via some other effect (after I've drawn some cards and gained some life of course). I also have effects that exchange control of lands or artifacts and ways to make sure that those cards never come back to hurt me.
The issue I'm having is that some of the themes are still running over each other causing some synergy headaches (such as trying to maintain a healthy Zedruu count while passing a Jinxed Idol or Jinxed Ring around the table). I'm also not taking full advantage of Zedruu's ability to give useless auras or global enchantments to the opponent. I'm also wanting to add Gamble back in as a way to retrieve Zedruu if he gets tucked, but I'm also open to suggestions for a Plan C for tutoring up Zedruu.
Any help or suggestions would be appreciated. I'm fairly new to this Commander, so I apologize in advance if I'm missing some Zedruu staple; although some of things I'm not interested in running are probably considered staples (such as Transcendence, Pyromancer's Swath, or Lich's Tomb). This is a work in progress and I would appreciate any help. Thanks!
The issue with Steel Golem (and its cousin Grid Monitor) was that they were getting sacrificed to Jinxed Ring and Idol, so they never really took effect. To a certain extent, that is also a problem with Norin and Saltskitter as well, but they have added utility when I don't have one of the Jinxed cards in play. I guess the problem is more that Jinxed Ring and Jinxed Idol are actually bad for a lot of what Zedruu is trying to accomplish... and I am sad to say it, but I think they have to go. I would easily put Grid Monitor and Steel Golem in their place. Perhaps I can also revaluate some other cards with this in mind as well.
As for the permanent-swapping spells, I've found them to actually be rather nice because they double as creature and artifact control. Giving the opponent a Kobold token to steal a Consecrated Sphinx is very nice; drawing an extra card and gaining an extra life every turn for their trouble makes me very happy.
I don't know exactly in what direction to take this deck really. I haven't had a lot of time to play the deck in its current incarnation and its a lot more rough that I'd like for a deck that I'm posting on a Magic forum. I guess I'm looking for more (or better) ideas on how to execute what I'm trying to do versus what every other Zedruu deck is trying to do.
I've been struggling for some time with this deck and the notion of whether I should scrap it entirely or try to massively overhaul it to fix some of the fundamental problems I was having with the deck.
Scrapping the deck meant likely was going to mean finding a different Jeskai commander altogether. Numot, the Devastator and Ruhan of the Fomori hold almost zero appeal to me. Even though I own almost all the cards, it seems like Narset, Enlightened Master is kind of a known boogyman when built around his ability. Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest seems like it would be interesting for about 5 minutes. I decided that I could always go back and build Narest, but it made sense to try and fix Zedruu first.
So overall, taking a hard look at Zedruu I had to identify what the biggest problems were. In the end, I decided that it really came down to the following:
The theme of stealing and sacrificing opponent's stuff didn't feed into what Zedruu really wanted.
Trying to keep opponents from killing the creatures I gave them was near impossible.
Giving the opponent things that would just come right back to me was self-defeating to the Zedruu theme.
If I was going to actually build around Zedruu, I needed more ways to protect her as there are no other cards that take advantage of the opponent's having control of your stuff as a backup plan.
Not all exchange control cards are worth it, especially given the situations where it might put Zedruu at risk.
So with that said, I went through every card in the deck and scrapped any card that didn't fit into exactly how I wanted he game to play out. This would mean cutting some good cards, but I figured the deck would be much better for it in the end.
So the first thing I did was scrap the theme of taking permanents temporarily and sacrificing them before they went back to my opponent. This was a theme of an old Brion Stoutarm deck that I created, but it really doesn't work here. If I'm going to spend resources trading crappy/useless stuff to my opponent for their good stuff, I'm not going to want to sacrifice my well-earned spoils.
This also meant cutting the temporary theft theme altogether. Again, if the idea is to take advantage of Zedruu, then I want them to have my stuff, not the other way around. I decided that I would only steal stuff it I was able to give them something in return.
Some of these were in the deck specifically to copy things like Gilded Drake and some of them were either leftovers from an older time (like Gamble which was nice anti-tuck tech) and just cards I though might be interesting and needed a home.
I also took a hard look at all the actual trading cards I was using and made sure that they made sense. Since I wasn't running anything that didn't already want Zedruu in play to take advantage of the situation, cards like Donate make little sense. Bronze Bombshell just doesn't do enough damage, Juxtapose is great when you can cast it but is often inhibited by the restriction on what you give back, and Switcheroo just costs too much for giving them a permanent that they can just kill by using it to block.
Other than the mana, this was what was left. It wasn't much, but it was the best of the permanent-swapping spells, the cards that did the most damage for the cost, and some ways to generate 0/1 tokens to swap with my opponents.
Next I looked at other options for swapping permanents
I figured that if I dedicated more resources to protecting Zedruu then I didn't need as many straight-up trade cards, but there were a few worth adding in. As you can see, I tried a lot of different options and most of them are just too situational to be of any reliable use. I wouldn't fault someone for trying to run any of these cards (obviously, they were good enough for me to at least try), but in the end I found that they didn't make the cut.
Both cards are awesome at effectively giving me life and taking it away from my opponents. I have actively shied away from cards like Pyromancer's Swath, Thought Lash, Taniwha etc. so that I don't ever get stuck with them and I'm only doing things to opponent's life totals. This keeps the deck from going to places I don't want it to go and streamlining the deck considerably.
Since I'm playing the long game, it made sense to be able to recur some key win-cons if need be. Getting Hanna or a looped Auramancer going to recycle Delaying Shield or Illusions of Grandeur is a nice long-game solution.
Running Zedruu, making tokens, leaving up mana for countering spells, or Capsize-ing every urn takes more mana than I originally had in the deck, so I went ahead and added the Signets and Thought Vessel. I also decided that in the long run I needed some mass creature removal in order to control the game better. At one point, I tried Moat and Magus of the Moat, but that puts too big of a target on your head when you shut things down.
So I know that there are a lot of Zedruu resources out there and a lot of decklists to look at, but none of them seem to have come to the same conclusion that I have after trying to get this deck jumpstarted again. I'm looking for some honest feedback regarding where the deck is headed and what you think of the changes. It's not everyday that I strip a deck down to 23/63 maindeck non-land cards and rebuild the other 40 cards, so I'm curious what others think.