Conditions Allow - Vazi, Keen Negotiator EDH
(Vazi, Keen Negotiator | Art by José Parodi)
An Offer They Can't Refuse
Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow! In this series I take a legendary creature with a drawback and build a deck to turn it into a strength. With Streets of New Capenna fully released, I must finally move on from Kamigawa to the smoky backstreets of a more modern city. There are a ton of new and powerful legendary creatures to play with in this set, but I'm more interested in a card that garnered more disappointment than interest when it was revealed.
Treasure tokens are the topic of debate amongst Commander players online. Dockside Extortionist was only the first on a list of cards that let you easily and consistently produce Treasures and ensure that you never, ever run out of mana. Paired with Smothering Tithe, Old Gnawbone, and now Bootleggers' Stash, it seems like the best way to ramp in Commander is with Treasure, not to mention the synergies that Treasure tokens have with Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, Prosper, Tome-Bound, and now Ognis, the Dragon's Lash.
So why would you want to give Treasure tokens away to your opponents? The prevailing opinion online has been that Vazi, Keen Negotiator doesn't give you enough value in return for ramping your opponents so explosively, and those concerns aren't unfounded. Players can stockpile the Treasures you give them to fuel explosive plays on later turns. Not only does that mean you're fueling your own defeat, you don't even get to draw any cards along the way.
Make 'em Play Ball
One approach to solving this problem seems to be stopping your opponents from using their lands to cast their spells. Blood Moon is a controversial card for its ability to lock opponents out of the game. With your Treasures to help fix their mana, however, your opponents will simply be forced to let you draw a card, and grow your creatures, every time they cast a spell. The same goes for Manabarbs and Price of Glory, which don't stop your opponents' lands, but will make them think twice about when and how often they want to use them.
A more common approach is simply to ensure that you are getting more value from everyone's Treasure than anyone else. With Viridian Revel to draw extra cards, Fangren Marauder to gain life, and Disciple of the Vault to pressure life totals, your opponents will be hard pressed to keep up, and that's without considering the game-ending potential of Revel in Riches and Hellkite Tyrant.
The final common approach is to simply turn off everyone else's Treasure tokens. Manglehorn makes sure your opponents can't use their Treasures right away. In the right deck, you might also consider Root Maze. For a more permanent solution, players are also turning to Karn, the Great Creator, making sure those Treasure tokens are never relevant. Collector Ouphe accomplishes the same thing, but also turns off your Treasures.
Changing the Game
I don't see Vazi, Keen Negotiator as a commander that punishes Treasure tokens, though. She cares about your opponents casting spells, taking a cut off the top if Treasure tokens were used to cast them. If anyone happens to need a little help with mana, she's willing to offer a hand, but Treasures are becoming a prevalent force in Commander. In many games, you'll have at least one opponent casting spells with Treasure without any encouragement from you.
If you're going to enable your opponents to cast big spells, or lots of spells, then there's no better place to turn than Kaervek the Merciless. With all the Treasures you'll be making yourself, casting Kaervek early will be easy. From then on, your opponents will have a hard limit on the number of spells they can cast. Creatures like Managorger Hydra and Taurean Mauler push that limit even lower by attacking for huge damage very, very quickly. And of course, Lurking Predators is incredibly effective at making people consider if they really need to cast that spell, and just makes sense in a deck that already wants to play Magda, Brazen Outlaw.
I'm also including Runic Armasaur as a smaller version of Vazi, Keen Negotiator and Spellshock as a smaller Kaervek the Merciless. Thanks to Ghirapur Aether Grid, Ruthless Technomancer, and Lurking Predators, you can avoid casting spells a lot of the time, ensuring you stay ahead on life points, and Runic Armasaur makes sure your opponents can't deny you value by not casting spells either.
All These Treasures
I may not be focusing on giving Treasure away, but that doesn't mean I don't want to be able to. Helping a struggling player or ensuring someone can deal with a threat to the table are powerful political tools, and ramping yourself with Treasure is still a fine investment. With that in mind, I've focused on cards that create steady Treasures over time rather than in big bursts, like Brass's Bounty or Dockside Extortionist. Glittermonger and Tireless Provisioner are perfect examples, easily creating one Treasure a turn, every turn. Fain, the Broker is an excellent fit mechanically and thematically alongside Vazi, Keen Negotiator's +1/+1 counters. Lastly, Grim Hireling and Professional Face-Breaker make sure the big creatures that we're playing with Lurking Predators keep the engine rolling.
That engine doesn't just produce mana, either. Grim Hireling rewards you for stockpiling Treasure with removal, while Ruthless Technomancer brings your creatures back from the dead. Ghirapur Aether Grid and Fathom Fleet Swordjack turn your Treasures into damage. The Aether Grid is versatile, picking off utility creatures and occasionally pruning life totals, while Fathom Fleet Swordjack is a legitimate win condition thanks to Encore. By far the most powerful Treasure card is, however, Magda, Brazen Outlaw.
When it comes to using Treasure tokens, there's no one better than Magda, Brazen Outlaw. You can customize the Dragons and artifacts in the deck depending on your favorites. I've gone with some classics in Atarka, World Render and Utvara Hellkite. Of course, Goldspan Dragon and Hellkite Tyrant make the cut as well for their synergies with Treasure tokens. My pick for big artifact is the new Bootleggers' Stash for another source of consistent Treasures. Bolas's Citadel or The Great Henge would also be worthy additions, if you prefer to focus more on artifacts than creatures.
Closing the Deal
To round out the rest of the deck, I'm including a package of removal and protection spells to go with Seasons Past. Paired with any tutor, Seasons Past lets you loop any number of spells with different mana values out of your graveyard. With Fog to protect you from combat, Assassin's Trophy, Beast Within, and Terminate, you won't face much threat from enemy creatures. Return to Nature is great for dealing with enchantments and artifacts across the table and is precision graveyard hate when needed as well.
When it comes to protecting your own permanents, you won't have it quite as easy as Counterspell. Bolt Bend does a pretty good impression, though, and will almost always cost a single red mana thanks to the +1/+1 counters from Vazi, Keen Negotiator's ability. I've also been including Pyroblast in just about every red deck I've built recently. Along with Veil of Summer, they give you a surprising ability to interact on the stack. With that in mind, I'm also adding Display of Dominance. Combined with Heroic Intervention and Wrap in Vigor, you shouldn't need to worry about your cards being destroyed.
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
For all the negative opinions of Vazi, Keen Negotiator I've read online, this deck came together really easily. Especially once I stopped worrying about giving opponents Treasures and focused on punishing spell casting, the Seasons Past core fell right into place. I think Vazi has a lot more potential than people have given her credit for. If she seems interesting, definitely try her out! Let me know how you'd approach Vazi, Keen Negotiator in the comments, and thanks for reading.