Lae'zel, Vlaakith's Champion | Illustration by John Stanko
Magic may be one of my favorite games, but it’s far from the only game I play. As a longtime fan of Dungeons and Dragons, I’ve really enjoyed the two sets Magic printed based in the Forgotten Realms. Dungeons & Dragons: Battle for Baldur’s Gate is an especially fun set for anyone like me who not only plays D&D but also loves the Baldur’s Gate games. With Baldur’s Gate 3 finally being fully released, I thought it would be a great time to look back at the set and build a deck around one of the companions from the game.
A lot of the Baldur’s Gate 3 companions have interesting cards to build around. Karlach, Fury of Avernus can be great for aggro builds and I’m convinced Gale, Waterdeep Prodigy can be great if I just spend enough time figuring it out. I chose to go with Lae'zel, Vlaakith's Champion, and after playing a few matches I was very happy with my choice.
Lae’zel offers a few different ways to build a deck, but I decided to focus mostly on +1/+1 counters. While one extra counter might not sound too impactful, you’ll be surprised how quickly this deck can snowball. I’ll show you exactly how it works, and share some of the best strategies I’ve found when playing it.
Ohran Frostfang | Illustration by Torstein Nordstrand
Birds of Paradise
Guardian of Faith
Leinore, Autumn Sovereign
Mother of Runes
Myrel, Shield of Argive
Shalai, Voice of Plenty
Sigarda, Font of Blessings
Toski, Bearer of Secrets
Boseiju, Who Endures
Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire
Plaza of Heroes
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
I made sure that this deck had plenty of ways to take advantage of Lae'zel, Vlaakith's Champion’s abilities. This means multiple ways to get +1/+1 counters and some good payoffs for buffing up your creatures. I also threw in a few other ways to add additional counters like Doubling Season and Hardened Scales. With these and Lae’zel, you can start to buff your creatures much more quickly than your opponents can handle.
I also included a larger-than-average number of planeswalkers in this build. This is partially a way to distribute more +1/+1 counters for free each turn with cards like Archangel Elspeth or Ajani, the Greathearted. Planeswalkers also synergize well with Lae’zel since they too benefit from its passive ability.
Lae'zel, Vlaakith's Champion is a great resource for any deck focused on counters. While I’ve chosen to focus on +1/+1 counters, Lae’zel also works great in the 99 of a superfriends deck and would be a good choice for decks utilizing shield counters if cards featuring them continue to get printed.
Like many of the monocolored Baldur’s Gate companions, Lae’zel allows you to choose a background. These are an enchantment that goes into your command zone alongside your commander. They come in all different colors, allowing you to add a second color to any of these commanders.
Adding green to this deck felt like the natural choice. It has a lot of great +1/+1 counter support as well as great creatures to go along with them. The green background Master Chef also synergizes very well with Lae’zel’s ability. With this card and your commander on the field, each of your creatures will enter with two +1/+1 counters on them, giving you much more powerful creatures for less mana than usual.
While Master Chef is great, you’ll want more ways to distribute +1/+1 counters throughout the game in order to make the most out of your commander. I tried to include a variety of ways to distribute counters repeatably for a one-time cost as opposed to spells that were a one-time distribution of counters.
Planeswalkers like Ajani Goldmane and Ajani Steadfast are great in this deck because they distribute counters to multiple creatures. This means Lae’zel’s ability is doing even more work for you across the board. Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants is especially good in this deck because its +1/+1 counter ability is a +1 loyalty cost. This means Ajani gains two loyalty counters from Lae’zel while also distributing up to four +1/+1 counters.
Cards like Fight Rigging or Leinore, Autumn Sovereign are also good ways of passively getting more counters for a one-time cost. This allows you to focus on spending your mana on other spells during your turn or keeping it open for instant speed ways to protect your creatures.
Duskshell Crawler’s ability more than makes up for only being a one-time counter distributor. If you have Master Chef or The Great Henge down, this card will essentially give all your creatures trample.
Nothing feels worse than using a bunch of resources to fill your board with powerful creatures only to have them removed. Cards like Heroic Intervention offer you some peace of mind and stop you from having to start over from scratch.
Flawless Maneuver works similarly for all your creatures, with the added benefit of being free to cast some of the time. In this deck it’s important to remember that Master Chef counts as your commander too even if Lae’zel isn’t on the field.
This deck also has a few pieces of protective equipment in the form of Swiftfoot Boots and Mithril Coat. I didn’t include Lightning Greaves or Whispersilk Cloak since shroud would stop you from targeting your own creature with abilities. Shroud would prevent you from giving the protected creature additional counters with any targeted abilities.
Bastion Protector is also a good way to keep Lae’zel on the board, though it’s easily removed. Still, you’ll be forcing opponents to waste some resources getting rid of it, so it can be helpful.
Shalai, Voice of Plenty is an especially powerful form of protection. Because it gives you hexproof as well, you can’t be targeted by effects that could make you sacrifice permanents which would otherwise get around the hexproof on your creatures. Shalai also has the added bonus of distributing more +1/+1 counters.
Having strong creatures is always a plus, but it won’t mean much if you can’t get damage through to your opponents. There are plenty of decks capable of holding off attacks by generating chump blockers, so to get around this you have cards that grant your creatures different forms of evasion.
The most pure form of evasion is just not being able to be blocked. Bilbo's Ring and Rogue's Passage are both ways to make a single creature unblockable. Unquestioned Authority also makes a creature unblockable by giving it protection from creatures. It also has the added benefit of keeping the creature safe from fight effects and other creatures’ activated abilities.
While Trailblazer's Boots won’t technically make a creature unblockable, it’s almost guaranteed to work that way in Commander. Even many mono-colored decks run at least a few utility lands, and any multicolored deck is going to be running nonbasic lands for fixing purposes.
Akroma's Will is another great form of evasion and can also serve as a finisher. Giving your creatures flying, vigilance, and double strike will get them around a good amount of creatures and increase their damage output significantly. If you have either of your commanders on the board, this will make it so that only colorless flying creatures can block your attackers.
Mana bases for 2-color decks usually want to include a good amount of dual lands so you don’t have to worry about missing one of your colors. I’ve included all my favorite types of dual lands for Commander including the slow land Overgrown Farmland, the filter land Wooded Bastion, and the bond land Bountiful Promenade.
Both Gavony Township and Oran-Rief, the Vastwood give you additional ways to distribute +1/+1 counters which is helpful in this deck. Rogue's Passage can also help you cash in on having buff creatures by making one of them unblockable.
Plaza of Heroes is slightly worse when your deck is split between two colors, but it can still be a helpful bit of mana fixing. It’s also a great way to keep your Commander safe from removal which can be very important in this deck.
Apart from lands, you also have a fair deal of mana dorks in this deck. Birds of Paradise and Avacyn's Pilgrim can both help with mana fixing as well as ramp, and Dryad Arbor can be played for free which is always a plus. Delighted Halfling is perhaps your best mana dork, especially since you are running so many other legends besides just Lae’zel.
I didn’t lean too heavily on mana rocks in this deck, but The Great Henge works well for several reasons. Its cost will be significantly reduced by its own effect when you’re buffing your creatures. It can also give you +1/+1 counters on each creature you play, which works very well with both Lae’zel and Master Chef. It’s also a solid source of card draw.
The basic strategy for this deck is to get Lae'zel, Vlaakith's Champion out early, and start getting extra value for all your creatures. As you continue to buff them using spells or your planeswalkers, you’ll likely be able to outpace your opponents since your creatures will all be stronger than they should be for their cost.
Having a good number of mana dorks is another great way to accelerate your game and ensure you’re outpacing your opponents. You’ll want to stay ahead on board while attacking and whittling away at life totals. Cards like Akroma's Will or Overwhelming Stampede can help you deal even more damage when you attack, and possibly help you eliminate a player. Of course, this deck also has ways to win more quickly than just grinding things out through combat damage.
Commander damage is definitely your friend in this deck, since Lae’zel can become powerful very quickly. Make it a priority to target Lae’zel with your +1/+1 counter distribution, and utilize your protective cards like Tamiyo's Safekeeping or Plaza of Heroes to keep them safe as you do. Once Lae’zel’s big enough you can sneak them through with a Rogue's Passage or Bilbo's Ring to take out an opponent. Akroma's Will can be especially helpful since you’ll only need to get Lae’zel to 11 power to take out an opponent and the card offers some evasion on top of that.
There is an infinite combo in the deck, but the deck has a variety of ways to win, so if you’re playing in a pod that doesn’t like combos you can always just take it out.
There is one infinite combo in this deck that can win you the game, so long as neither of the pieces are removed in the process. To pull it off you’ll just need Walking Ballista with at least two counters on it and Heliod, Sun-Crowned. Lae'zel, Vlaakith's Champion and Master Chef will both make this combo easier to pull off since you’ll have to pay less for the Ballista, but they aren’t necessary.
You just need to pay for Heliod, Sun-Crowned’s ability to give Walking Ballista lifelink. Then, you can remove a counter from it and ping an opponent for one damage. This will also gain you one life, triggering Heliod’s other ability. Put the +1/+1 counter you get from Heliod back on Walking Ballista and you now have a source of infinite +1/+1 counters and can deal infinite damage.
Whenever you’re running an infinite combo, especially one that only requires a few pieces like this one, it’s important to bring it up to your playgroup during any Rule 0 discussions. If the people you’re playing with don’t want to go up against this kind of combo, then it’s worth having an alternate card on hand to swap out with one of the pieces.
This deck isn’t fully reliant on this combo so don’t feel like you’re compromising the entire build by taking it out. It’s nice to have when you can, but you can still win the game without using it, especially if the entire pod agrees not to use combos.
Some cards in this deck can be a little pricey, and if you’re just looking to test out a new build you might not want to pay full price for this deck. There are some easy cuts to make that will save you a lot of money without taking too much away from the deck.
Doubling Season is an easy first cut. It’s a great card, but it’s also around $50 at the moment. Branching Evolution is a good alternative that serves a similar purpose at a fraction of the price. If you still want to be able to put extra counters on your planeswalkers, you could also grab a Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider. This would save you about $15 compared to Doubling Season.
Despite a few recent reprints, The Great Henge is still one of the more expensive cards in this deck. Durable Handicraft is a very budget-friendly alternative for counter distribution. If it’s card draw you want, then Beast Whisperer can help in that department.
Wooded Foothills is starting to creep up in price, I just included it because it’s one of the fetches I happen to have. You could easily replace it with a cheaper option like Verdant Catacombs which costs slightly less and can still fetch a Forest. Alternatively, you don’t probably need as many fetch lands in here as I have so you can always just slot in another basic land and save a good chunk of money.
You could take this deck in another direction by leaning more heavily into planeswalkers. You could include a Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider to accompany your Doubling Season, giving you several ways to fast-track ultimate abilities.
Alternatively, you could stick with a +1/+1 counter theme and switch up which background you use for Lae’zel. If you don’t mind going with a monocolored deck, you could use Noble Heritage as your second commander. Instead of going wide you could continue to target Lae’zel with this ability each turn and pump them up to the point where they can deal lethal damage.
Mono-white still has access to a lot of equipment support if you want to go this route and make this a +1/+1 counter and Voltron-style deck.
Heliod, Sun-Crowned | Illustration by Lius Lasahido
With the popularity of Baldur’s Gate 3, it’ll be interesting to see if more of the Magic cards connected to it start popping up at Commander nights. I’ve been having a lot of fun with this Lae’zel build, and I do think the rest of the companions have fun builds you can make out of them as well.
Which Baldur’s Gate companion would you want to build around? Would you like to see backgrounds return in a future set? Let me know in the comments or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.
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