Ezuri, the Claw of Combos
Hey guys, it’s David back with another article. This time on one of my all time favorite commander decks, Ezuri, Claw of Progress.
I’ve had this deck since it came out in 2015 and have been slowly upgrading it ever since. This deck list is very strong. On the typical 1 to 10 scale of commander power level, I’d give it a 9 or a 9.5. The main gameplan of this deck is to combo as soon as possible, or if that fails, to run our opponents over with massive dudes very quickly. The upgrades needed to push this deck to a full 10 competitive EDH level deck are either very expensive or are typical combo lines that just happen to be in blue and green. I wanted to keep the combos in this deck feeling distinctly Ezuri because I like the lines of play he promotes and this is my second ever commander deck so it has a special place in my heart. With that out of the way, let’s look at the deck.
The first part of our game plan is to get experience counters. Eventually we want to turn experience counters into threats so it’d be nice if what gives us a bunch of experience counters is also a threat, but we can’t be too picky. Hangarback Walker is the perfect meeting of these two goals. We can play it on turn 4, assumedly after a turn 3 Ezuri, for X=2 having it enter with 2 counters and giving us an experience counter. After entering combat Hangarback will have 3 counters. At this point it’s already pretty scary to kill because it will give us 3 1/1 fliers that will give us 3 more experience counters and evasive threats to put them on. Shrieking Drake, as it is in most decks that can play it, is incredibly strong. One blue mana being one experience counter is incredibly efficient for this deck, and turning all of your blue mana into experience counters each and every turn makes Shrieking Drake one of our strongest experience counter enablers. Arachnogenesis is a little situational, especially at higher power level tables that don’t tend to get into combat at all, but when it works it almost single handedly wins you the game. If an opponent is swinging at you, they are probably trying to kill you with that attack. Not only does Arachnogenesis completely blank that attack and probably the next one, you also get a large number of experience counters ready to use to win on your next turn.
Next is what to do with all these counters we have amassed. These are all the best cards to put counters on by far. Sage of Hours is infinite turns as long as you have at least 4 experience counters before you play him. Playing the Sage gives you the fifth experience counter and if your opponents have no interaction when you enter combat, you win the game. Simic Ascendancy is probably the most obvious as to how you win the game as it literally says win the game on it. Getting to the 20 counters needed to trigger this is incredibly easy even in only one turn. Playing this as you are establishing your board means that your opponents have to answer it quickly or instantly lose, which allows your newly deployed threats to take over the game themselves. Blighted Agent is one of the slower win conditions on this list but since you can pump it by a decent amount each turn, often only two attacks from this will put enough infect counters on them for them to lose. And after you’ve taken one person out, it’s much easier to take care of the other two. Champion of Lambholt is great early or late into the game as it can unlock your weenie army or just smash someone for the game all by itself. Since it grows when other creatures enter the battlefield as well as with the experience counters you'lll put on it with Ezuri, the Champion lives up to its name quickly.
We are a very creature focused deck so finding ways to protect our board is essential, bonus points if those protection pieces are also creatures or give us experience counters. Void Grafter is one of my favorite protection pieces as it gives hexproof to one of our important creatures, gives us an experience counter to further our gameplan, and can act as a surprise blocker if needed. Cauldron of Souls looks like a 5 mana do nothing value artifact, which most competitive decks can’t afford to play, but it is secretly one of our best protection tools. Firstly, it can activate the turn it comes down if you really need it to to protect your creatures from board wipes. Secondly, it brings everything back with a -1/-1 counter on them, which is easily removed by our +1/+1 counter commander and cards in deck, and also gives us experience counters for often every single creature that just died. Also Ezuri himself will give us an experience counter when he re-enters as he enters as a 2/2. Additionally, we can use the persist to buy favors from other players at the table, or use it to refuel our own sacrifice outlets to double dip on the same creature. As if that wasn’t enough, most of our creatures have enter the battlefield triggers that will happen when they are reanimated. If you can afford to tap down for counter magic for a turn, Cauldron of Souls is one of the best cards in the deck to do it with. Plaxcaster Frogling is an all star in the deck when it comes to protecting our things as well. The graft effect is huge to be able to put counters on Ezuri to offer protection as well as saving some of our 1/1 creatures from the persist effect of Cauldron of Souls. If they are brought back with a -1/-1 counter on them, just graft a +1/+1 counter over and they live, plus they can be persisted again. And the Frogling himself is always a target for Cauldron because he comes with his own +1/+1 counters that cancel the persist counters.
These are some of the most synergistic and powerful cards in the deck that I consider to be mainstays of any Ezuri deck. Gyre Sage taps for ludicrous amounts of mana after only a few turns of being on the board. Plus it becomes a massive beater or blocker in a pinch. Cultivator of Blades almost always chooses to make servos as the experience counters gained will just fuel its power for next turn. It’s not unreasonable to attack with it at 10+ power the first turn it’s able to attack. Iridescent Hornbeetle gets your experience counters out of control fast, effectively doubling them every single turn as well as creating an army of blockers, or with the Cultivator an army of killer bugs. Animation Module is basically the perfectly created card for this deck. You almost couldn’t design a card more for this deck if you tried. It triggers on +1/+1 counters, it creates 1/1 tokens which give you more experience counters, and it gives you experience counters on its active. Hadana’s Climb has interesting interactions with Ezuri. Since they both trigger on entering combat, you can often stack your triggers in a way that forces Hadana’s Climb to flip really fast, or stall it’s transformation as long as you want. Either way, once it’s flipped, someone is dying.
This is just a starter for what Ezuri can do. It’s a fairly open ended deck as you just want to play small creatures with powerful effects because Ezuri will make them huge in a matter of minutes. You can tune your deck towards powerful ETB effects, or all in on many evasive threats, or just slam big dudes and make them bigger. No matter what you do with Ezuri he can be played at basically all power levels of play and hang with the big boys without losing his identity as a deck. Below is my decklist that I've been updating over the years but it is by no means the be all and end all Ezuri list. Thanks for reading and good luck with glorious progress.