Last updated on October 30, 2023
Ziatora, the Incinerator | Illustration by Chris Rahn
Jund () commanders have always been known for their strong sacrifice strategies. Now Jund’s trio of sacrificing dragons is complete with Ziatora, the Incinerator. Ziatora’s ability seems fairly straightforward at first glance. And we like it like that.
Today let’s take a look at a sacrificial deck with Ziatora at the head. Ready? Let’s jump right in!
Kodama's Reach | Illustration by John Avon
Elves of Deep Shadow
Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge
Mr. Orfeo, the Boulder
Cavalier of Flame
Cavalier of Thorns
Jugan, the Rising Star
Kokusho, the Evening Star
Ryusei, the Falling Star
Scuttling Doom Engine
Butcher of Malakir
Bearer of the Heavens
Ancient Stone Idol
Ziatora's Proving Ground
This Ziatora, the Incinerator deck has a damage-heavy game. It wants to play big creatures and then fling them past your opponents’ battlefield for direct damage. It capitalizes on Ziatora’s regularly-scheduled sacrifice effect to ping your opponents with cards like Blood Artist and Outpost Siege.
Then, you use your Treasure tokens to refill your board with another strong creature and fling it across the board. Rinse and repeat!
You’re not at a loss for options when it comes to Jund commanders, so why run Ziatora, the Incinerator? Both Prossh, Skyraider of Kher and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King can serve similar roles, but each fits into a different play style.
Korvold is the fastest and most aggressive of the lot as the cheapest of the three. Its ability triggers immediately when it enters the battlefield, generating value sooner than the other two dragons. Korvold also has the weakest base power and toughness of the three dragons but can quickly outpace them with its +1/+1 counters.
Prossh sits at the other end of the spectrum. While it creates six 0/1 Kobold tokens when it enters the battlefield, it can’t attack that turn without an outside source of haste. But its sacrifice-activated Firebreathing means it can attack for major damage the next turn, potentially killing an opponent with commander damage with the right set up. But it needs to be recast to create more Kobolds, which can potentially sink your mana base.
I see Ziatora, the Incinerator as the mid-ground between Korvold and Prossh. Ziatora costs six mana, and its effect activates in the end phase on the turn it arrives. It ramps you with Treasure tokens, helping mitigate the loss of creatures on your board, but won’t draw you cards like Korvold. Ziatora is also the only Jund dragon that doesn’t need the combat step to deal damage.
The core of this deck is its army of high-power creatures, ready to turn themselves into direct damage via Ziatora. Ancient Stone Idol, Desolation Twin, Daemogoth Titan… Pretty much anything you can find with huge power will suffice.
Hamletback Goliath is a hilarious creature to fling. It’s not uncommon to throw a 20+ power giant right at someone’s face.
Bonus points for big creatures with effects that trigger on death, and there are a ton of great options in this category. There’s Destructor Dragon and Pelakka Wurm, as well as the classic Kamigawa dragons Jugan, the Rising Star, Kokusho, the Evening Star, and Ryusei, the Falling Star.
Some of your death triggers take the place of typical utility pieces. Protean Hulk tutors up a couple small creatures or one big one; Phytotitan’s built-in recursion means you’ll always have seven damage to throw around; and Bearer of the Heavens and Havoc Demon take the place of your typical board wipes. Cavalier of Thorns will ramp you (as if you need it after casting it for ), but putting a couple creatures into your graveyard can prepare it for Apprentice Necromancer.
Next, you’ve got a handful of extra spells to help capitalize on sacrificing your huge critters.
Stalking Vengeance has been a favorite of mine since Commander 2013’s Prossh, Skyraider of Kher precon. While it’s a little over-costed, doubling down on damage from Ziatora can really pay off. Imagine dropping Malignus while Stalking Vengeance and Ziatora, the Incinerator are on the field and then flinging it and ending another player outright.
Butcher of Malakir and Dictate of Erebos are great removal that just get stronger when used in tandem. Riveteers Ascendancy and Mr. Orfeo, the Boulder are both basically built for Ziatora, ensuring you always have a creature to trade in for big damage.
And don’t count out the newly reprinted Strionic Resonator either! Two mana for another trigger of Ziatora’s ability is great value and can turn a threatening turn into a game-ending one.
Sometimes you just won’t have access to your commander. It’s either been removed enough times that it’s commander tax is prohibitive, or (god forbid) someone cast Nevermore on you. Luckily you’ve got a few sacrifice spells to keep the death triggers rolling.
Bone Shards is the perfect cheap, single-target removal spell for this deck.
And don’t worry about tossing a creature into your graveyard from your hand for this since Victimize and Dread Return can recur whatever big creature you need. Fake Your Own Death serves a similar purpose and can also eek out some extra damage and Treasure from a creature you plan on sacrificing to Ziatora.
Finally, you’ll use Deadly Dispute to ramp and draw some cards in a pinch.
Warstorm Surge and Outpost Siege make sure you hit your opponents when your creatures come in and when they go out. Unnatural Growth further increases your creatures’ damage output, and Colossification can turn into an extra 20 damage on that turn’s end step.
Foster is another holdover from my Commander 2013 days. It digs up creatures very quickly and helps mitigate losing a creature to Ziatora each turn.
Drawing a card alone off Moldervine Reclamation is great value for this deck, too.
Finally, we come to the boring parts. The great format of Commander can’t be played without some essential tools.
Keep Ziatora on the field with a pair of Swiftfoot Boots.
Getting to six mana and casting Ziatora, the Incinerator early is the key to running this deck. You have Sol Ring and Arcane Signet plus a trio of mana rocks (Golgari Signet, Rakdos Signet, and Gruul Signet) to make sure you have easy access to the right colors.
Double up your mana with Brass's Bounty and set up for a huge turn.
You also have a handful of mana dorks. The classics Arbor Elf and Elves of Deep Shadow are always safe choices. Tireless Provisioner is a card I’ve had a lot of fun testing out lately. It’s not technically a dork, but its Treasure token synergy plays well with Revel in Riches.
Revel In Riches | Illustration by Eric Deschamps
The overall strategy for this deck involves creating a threatening board state and then playing Ziatora, the Incinerator to throw dangerous amounts of damage into your foes’ faces. Since so many of your best creatures are five or more mana, you want to keep an opening hand with a few cheap ramp spells like Cultivate, Farseek, and 2-drop mana rocks. Start setting up early with Gadrak, the Crown-Scourge and Daemogoth Titan.
By the mid game you’ll start building up your board and preparing for Ziatora’s arrival. Get some big creatures out and ready to sacrifice, like Phytotitan. The sooner you can play Malignus the better since its value deteriorates as your opponents lose life. You also need at least one of your supporting enchantments like Foster, Riveteers Ascendancy, or Moldervine Reclamation to make sure you can refill your board after you start sacrificing.
Once you feel sufficiently setup, it’s time to play Ziatora. It’s best to resolve its ability the turn it arrives so that you have something strong to pitch at your opponents that turn. The strategy is simple from here on out: keep playing big creatures, and keep flinging them at your opponents until none remain. If direct damage doesn’t seem a viable route, you can pivot to a Revel in Riches victory or pump Ziatora up with Colossification to try for a commander damage kill.
This deck doesn’t run any infinite combos, but there are some interesting synergies I’d like to call out.
Second, remember to stack your end step triggers correctly with Ziatora. Cards like an encore’d Phyrexian Triniform and Whip of Erebos have an end-step trigger that’ll sacrifice the creature, but ordering Ziatora’s ability on top of it in the stack means you’ll still squeeze some damage and Treasure out of them as they die.
I’ll be real with you; this is a fair, no-cheese list. No need to warn your pod about any potentially unfair or “feels bad” cards. This list’s ramp isn’t too quick or too slow, and it’s bombs are classic Timmy staples for EDH.
There’s nothing too crazy here. Just some good old-fashioned turn-em’-sideways Magic.
Riveteers Overlook | Illustration by Lucas Staniec
This deck runs around $285 in its current form, but there are some easy cuts and replacements to change that price to better fit your budget.
The easiest cuts to make in this deck are the lands. I’ve included some of the more expensive duals in my list, but feel free to swap out Wooded Foothills, Ziatora's Proving Ground, and the shock lands (Blood Crypt, Overgrown Tomb, and Stomping Ground) for cheaper options. I’ve got a soft spot for Ravnica, so I’m partial to the Guildgates for my budget man abases. They’re definitely slower, but their difference is negligible in most Commander pods.
So, what can you add to “punch up” this deck?
You can always get bigger and better creatures. Old Gnawbone is an absolute beast in this deck; Terror of the Peaks is another Warstorm Surge; and Hellkite Tyrant can serve as an alternate-alternate wincon.
This build is focused mainly on flinging creatures for direct damage, with an alternate wincon involving Revel in Riches. But a lot of players can make this alternate win condition their main one by shifting the focus away from damage and to Treasure tokens.
Bearer of the Heavens | Illustration by Ryan Alexander Lee
Ziatora, the Incinerator has quickly become my favorite Jund commander. I’ve even looted my Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper deck to rebuild it for the Riveteers’ demon-dragon boss. It’s the missing link between Prossh, Skyraider of Kher and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King and represents some of the best Jund design we’ve seen in a while.
What do you think? Is Ziatora the new hot Jund sacrifice commander, or will it fall to the wayside after that new-commander smell wears off? What sorts of creatures will you be flinging at your opponents’ faces? Let me know in the comments or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.
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