Adventures in the Forgotten Realms has brought some beloved characters into Magic the Gathering. One of the most beloved being Drizzt Do’Urden. While Drizzt was awesome in the books doing some amazing things he loses some of his awesomeness as Wizards of the Coast brings him to Magic. This creates some difficulties, but they are not insurmountable.
As a commander, he is a build around one and will not create insane board states that explode or devastate your opponent’s side of the battlefield. His gain counters ability wants you to play Voltron, but there are better Voltron commanders than Drizzt. I would much rather have Sigarda, Host of Herons who has built in evasion and is difficult to remove than Drizzt as a Voltron commander. However, Drizzt is a commander you can work around to create a counters deck and add some mischievousness to your board. He is not the cause of the mischievousness but provides the framework for an alternative brew.
When brewing this deck the first theme you want to make sure you include is deathtouch equipment. Deathtouch works well with double strike. This powers up Drizzt for creature removal from your command zone. As Drizzt grows, he will be blocked or he knocks someone out of the game. The next needed keyword is trample. Without trample, he can be chump blocked all day. Deathtouch and trample weaponizes him where you can remove several creatures at a time. For Vorthos flavor reasons, we want to sprinkle some swords in the deck. We only want a few in the deck and often we may not always be equipping them to Drizzt. Any power bonus we give to Drizzt will make it more difficult to trigger his ability. This creates a situation where any power increase a sword gives is inconsequential if not a detriment.
Finally, you will want to play a counters theme. The deck is more interesting and versatile when it is not focused around putting counters on Drizzt. Build a massive army of creatures with counters instead. This creates a dual threat and will provide the deck greater chances to win and stay in the game. Drizzt disappears in a sea of other threats. It minimizes your opponents pinpoint removal making you vulnerable mostly to board wipes only. Most metas will see some board wipe inclusion but most times there are significantly less board wipes and more pinpoint removal cards in decks. Also with these counters synergies, even if you don’t win, you will have fun interacting with your battlefield. That is a good thing. Normally odds are 25% to win a game all things being equal, so have fun doing your “thing.”
The Not So Obvious
There are many counter choices that are not included in this deck. Cards like Hardened Scales, Doubling Season, and Pir, Imaginative Rascal. Many deck lists can include these cards and more. Instead of loading up on counters, included is a package of board wipe protection. If you build a large board state you want to protect it so that you can capitalize on it. You will also not see Phyrexian Dreadnaught in this list as well. The card works great with Drizzt but does not add anything to the overall strategy of the deck except for building Drizzt. We want cards to be versatile with an overall counters theme not a Drizzt only theme.
You want creatures to die but you want to control when they die and not leave it up to your opponent. This also means we need to build in the deck sacrifice outlets. Finally, we will put counters on the board quickly with a package of hydras. Hydras will let us use just as much mana as we need and still protect our battlefield. They also while put counters on the board and grow out of hand. Hydras create immediate threats. The deck wants to attack in casual metas and hydras help that happen.
You will need to be mindful of your meta when you build this deck. Three player games are faster and decks need tempo if they are going to win. If building a deck for a three player meta you will want to include more counters synergy to go above and beyond what is normal. You will also need to lower the mana curve of the deck so you can play quicker. Here are some thoughts to optimize a deck for a three player meta.
A three player meta can add a little more ramp. This is because with only two opponents there will be less removal cards at the table that will affect you. This lowers the probability that the board will get wiped or that multiple key pieces are removed from your battlefield in a single turn. It’s in this situation that sandbagging is less necessary. This deck needs to play fast and get out of hand even quicker. Having multiple cards that play towards a counters strategy in your starting hand will help you get the critical mass of counters that will win you the game. Secondly instead of hydras you will want to build a creature suite that contains lots of first strike and double strike. Fencing Ace and SIlverblade Paladin are excellent choices as they allow you to be even more aggressive and attack with your creatures.
The Key Three
As with all commander decks there are specific cards that are very effective and cause the deck to run optimally and smooth. You can find the full deck list for Drizzt on Arkidekt. Here are the three cards that will allow your deck to accelerate. The key three cards you would like to play are The Ozolith, Greater Good, and Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider.
An Example of the Key Three.
Instead of explaining why each card is key in the deck, we are going to play through an example of how these three cards synergize well together. Let’s take a trip to Magical Christmas Land. We will have a haste enabler on the battlefield. For our example Swiftfoot Boots. We also have Drizzt on the battlefield and our key three cards. The Ozolith currently has no counters on it. Also, Drizzt is a simple 3/3 and has no counters on him either. We will also have a minimum of seven mana on the battlefield. It is our turn.
First we play five mana and put the Kalonian Hydra in play. It enters the battlefield with 8 counters instead of 4 due to Vorinclex. We then spend one mana to equip the Swiftfoot Boots to the Kalonian Hydra and move to combat. We swing at one of our opponents with the Kalonian Hydra. The hydra’s attack trigger occurs and doubles the counters on it but with Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider out it doubles it again. Instead of 8 counters, 16 is placed making the Kalonian Hydra a 24/24. Our opponent blocks with a 6/6 because he does not want to take 24 damage. Due to trample he still takes 18 damage.
After combat, we sacrifice our Kalonian Hydra to Greater Good. The 24 counters go away but The Ozolith triggers and we place 24 counters on The Ozolith But because of Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider we will put 48 counters on it and draw 24 cards. When we are drawing 24 cards, discarding three due to Greater Good should not be too difficult. With the Kalonian Hydra’s death due to the sacrifice outlet, Drizzt triggers.The hydra was a 24/24 and Drizzt is a 3/3. This means we will place 21 counters on Drizzt Do’Urden, but Vorinclex triggers again and this time we place 42 counters on Drizzt.
Finally, we will spend 1 mana to equip the Swiftfoot Boots on Drizzt to protect him from any removal mischievousness. We are now set up on the battlefield for our next turn. The board is out of hand for our opponents and it will continue to do so unless our opponents deal with us. Thus we will use our cards to prepare for the backlash that is about to occur.
We sculpt our hand to the best seven cards and discard the rest. We will make sure we keep a card that grants Drizzt trample so that he can swing at a player for 90 (45 first strike damage and 45 regular damage). If we draw into a deathtouch card we will hold onto that as well in hopes to completely wipe out an opponent. We will first hold onto three or so extra mana in order to protect our board from board wipes. If we can do that then we will play out another creature so that we have a target other than Drizzt to move the 48 counters onto. When that happens Vorinclex will trigger again and we will place 96 counters instead. Worst case we will put the counters on Vorinclex (who has trample) and attack.
Growing Rites of Italimoc
Most people, if they could afford Gaea’s Cradle, would have it in their deck. Growing Rites of Itlimoc is the budget version of the land. The price has risen over the years but it is far cheaper than the alternative. The card takes up a land slot in the deck. While that may seem unusual, with the rise of MDFC (Modal Dual Faced Cards) land slots have become more flexible than they were in 2019. An end step trigger allows you to play the card and flip it on the same turn. Achieving four creatures on board is not that difficult and this card can act as a land more than it doesn’t. While it is technically not a land, it often will function as one.
While Luminous Broodmoth‘s fliying makes this card useful. However, the ability to recur your creatures when they die is a significant advantage. The Broodmoth gives them evasion and is an ability that is to your advantage. The deck wants to build a large board state. The Broodmoth will allow you to do so. In the case of a board wipe because the Broodmoth dies at the same time as your other creatures it’s ability triggers and will bring all your nonfliers back to the battlefield. Often your opponents will not do that. They will wait to remove the Broodmoth first and then board wipe. This helps you gain valuable time to go off with your counters..
Odric, Lunarch Marshal and Odric, Master Tactician are ways to manipulate combat in your favor. The deck contains a lot of keywords and your commander has a critical one in doublestrike. He also creates Guenhwyvar which contains trample. Mix in deathtouch and or a little evasion in flying and all of a sudden your creatures are a nightmare to block. With Odric, Master Tactician on the battlefield, if you can grow your army to the point where you can attack with four creatures Master Tactician just straight up can take players out of the game. Simply declare that there are no blocks. You will need to power up your creatures. With a counter there it is possible if not probable to do so.
Sometimes there are cards and card effects that go against what your deck wants to do or does not synergize well with the cards in your deck. These are called Nonbos or create some anti synergy in a deck. Often players may avoid these cards entirely but sometimes the cards are still a good inclusion in the deck. You do not want to avoid all of these cards. Instead, be very selective with the ones that are included.
Sword of Series
The Swords included in the deck are for Vorthos reasons and mostly because Drizzt wielded double scimitars in the books. Each sword has a strong ability on it’s own and doing things all decks want to do like draw cards (Sword of Fire and Ice) or add counters and proliferate (Sword of Truth and Justice). At first glance adding some extra power to a double strike creature is awesome as it adds to the damage total. When you consider the situation you recognize that you don’t really want to equip the swords to Drizzt. When Drizzt triggers and you get to put counters on him you want his power as low as possible so that you can put more counters on him and grow him even larger.
A different play pattern is needed. First, it is just wise to equip what creatures you have with trample with the swords so that the swords effects trigger. Second, your deck is built around you controlling when your creatures die to trigger Drizzt and not when your opponents creatures die. Because of this you can sometimes be mana intensive and have Drizzt equipped for combat and then move the sword elsewhere before you sacrifice a creature to maximize Drizzt’s counter generation.
You can speed this deck up, if needed, by replacing both Sword of the Animist and Sword of Feast and Famine with two mana ramp effects. Sword of Fire and Ice could be replaced with Zendikar Resurgent. It is a lateral replacement because Zendikar Resurgent it costs significantly more mana. However, it’s incremental in it’s card draw but it also will double your mana which will improve your ability to cast hydras and have explosive plays later in the game. Sword of Truth and Justice should remain in the deck. The proliferate ability is what the deck wants to do while protecting you from cards such as Swords to Plowshares and Pongify.
Another non-synergistic card with Drizzt is Vigor. Drizzt wants creatures to die and Vigor prevents creatures from dying. The main reason is we want to build a large Drizzt. However, building a large Drizzt is a secondary goal compared to playing an aggressive +1/+1 counter strategy. Vigor plays into that counter strategy exceptionally well and can put counters on many creatures if our opponent block or vice versa. Even though it slows down Drizzt, it will speed up many other creatures on our battlefield. It helps to create a critical mass of large creatures that can not be dealt with. It allows us to remain aggressive in our gameplay which is the style a counters deck wants to play.
Summing it all up
Drizzt is an excellently designed card. If you are looking for a pushed commander it’s not him. There are better options in Selesnya if you are. Pushed is not why we would want to play Drizzt. He is a nod to those of us who have read and loved the books he has been in over the decades. I think WIzards did a solid job designing a card that is different to build around and fun to play. Johnny will enjoy the challenge of brewing around him. Timmy will have fun activating all the counter triggers on the board and then swinging in. If you are looking for a new commander consider Drizzt.