Commander Focus: Hazezon Tamar – Fear Is the Mind-killer

This week with the recent Dune release, we’re looking back at the game we love with a bit of a retro bent. In this week’s Commander Focus, we’re building around one of the Magic’s original Legends, Hazezon Tamar.

This article was originally published on this site in April 2021.

There is a part of Magic that sleeps. It’s a part from a long, long time ago. The first multi-colored creatures were amazing to see. The whole idea of gold cards – it was shocking. And cards like Jasmine Boreal weren’t considered bad. In the early days of Magic cards like Lord of the Pit and Force of Nature — they were game enders. Huge, stompy creatures with Trample and enormous mana costs. And at the same time you could just as easily have come up against statistically calculated decks that were just Black Lotus, Timetwister, and Lightning Bolt. Or decks where players were unironically running Walls (aka creatures with defender). And there were truly nightmarish cards running around like Chaos Orb, Raging River, and Smoke. I distinctly recall playing Magic at a card shop against someone whose deck was in a backpack, full of swamps, Dark Rituals, and Plague Rats. We were wrong about the rules, and the concept of the stack didn’t exist yet, which meant you couldn’t respond to a Lightning Bolt with a Giant Growth, because there were still interrupts.

Commander was born as Elder Dragon Highlander; you used one of the Elder Dragons from the Legends expansion as a commander, and could play cards in its color identity, and the highlander part meant there could be only one of each card. The Elder Dragons from Legends are awful, awful cards by modern standards. They are cost 8, they have 3 colors in their casting cost, and they have significant upkeep costs. If you’ve noticed, upkeeps have mostly gone from being bad things to being good things over the past 20 or so years. Most things that happen during upkeep give you something now – a counter or a token or a mana. Used to be that upkeep costs would require you to sacrifice a creature or pay mana or something like that. Sure, this still happens occasionally, but it’s at a much much cheaper price. In addition to these knocks, the elder dragons are also wildly inconsistent: Nicol Bolas is actually not entirely terrible, and Arcades Sabboth lets you pump his toughness.

If I sound like I’m waxxing nostalgic, of course I am. I was outright terrible at Magic back in Alpha/Beta. And sadly, in some ways that was more fun… It made it easy to get pumped about these big, dumb gold creatures. Unfortunately most of the actual legends creatures from Legends are almost totally bad. Lady Orca? Jeddit Ojanen? They’re not even interesting. I’m saddened to see how rough Rohgahh of Kher Keep is… I’d love to build a Rakdos Kobold deck around him, but bringing him out would be totally crippling.

There are however, a few creatures that aren’t so dire. Hazezon Tamar has at least an interesting ability, and a nice color spread. His CMV is absurd for what he does, and of course there’s no real synergy between what should be his obvious buddy, Dakkon Blackblade. In fact they have almost opposing color identities.  Hazezon at least has green in his color identity, which lets you ramp out lands to get something out of his ability, and actually afford his 7 CMV. If we’re going to play Hazezon we need to understand how his abilities work. First, once he enters play a delayed trigger is created creating the Sand Warriors. It doesn’t matter if he leaves play between now and your upkeep, you’ll still get the Sand Warriors. In fact, if he enters play, leaves play, and enters play again, you’ll get Sand Warriors twice. Or three times. Or more. After all, the Kwisatz Haderach can be in many places at once.

Finally, when he leaves play, he exiles all Sand Warrior permanents that are in play. It doesn’t matter which of his iterations created these Sand Warriors, or what their source is. So technically, if there is a Changeling in play and Hazezon leaves play, that too will be exiled. Or anything else that manages to become a Sand Warrior. With all these entering play triggers and creatures entering play we’ll want some nice triggers on creatures entering play. Triggers like Impact Tremors; Purphoros, God of the Forge; and Terror of the Peaks will do nicely, Hazezon will enter, then create a bunch of Sand Warriors, and they in turn will create a ton of triggers.

But the real cool thing, at least to me, as a Frank Herbert fan, is that this deck is very much a Dune deck. So in addition to land ramp and other things, we’ve got a bunch of Sand Worm, Wurm type creatures. And ways to give our Sand Warriors banding, so that they can ride the sandwurms into battle!

Also, there’s a new Dune movie out!

Credit: Warner Brothers

Now, you may think I’m kidding about this. But I have read the entire Dune chronicles several times. The real Dune books, not the ones by Brian Herbert. Yes the one where a guy turns into a sand worm. Now I will explain, in excruciating detail, what each card in the deck actually represents, from the Dune books. And you’ll have to scroll past it to get to the deck list. (NO THE BRIAN HERBERT BOOKS DO NOT COUNT THEY ARE NOT CANON as far as I am concerned).

Commander (1)

1 Hazezon TamarPaul Atreides

Creatures (23)

1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim Reverend Mother
1 Boreal Druid Reverend Mother
1 Elvish Mystic Reverend Mother
1 Fyndhorn Elves Reverend Mother
1 Llanowar Elves Reverend Mother
1 Drannith Magistrate Guild Ambassador
1 Aven Mindcensor Edric
1 Ramunap Excavator Pardot Kynes
1 Tireless Tracker Liet Kynes
1 Anger Lisan al Gaib
1 Beast Whisperer Proctor Superior
1 Mangara, the Diplomat Count Hasimir Fenring
1 Purphoros, God of the Forge Guerilla raids
1 Saltskitter Sandworm Sandworm
1 Terror of the Peaks Shai Halud
1 Panglacial Wurm Sandworm
1 Siege Wurm Sandworm
1 Symbiotic Wurm The Maker
1 Impervious Greatwurm Shaitan
1 Worldspine Wurm Old man of the Desert
1 Autochthon Wurm Sandworm

Sorceries (13)

1 By Force Butlerian Jihad
1 Gamble Stroboscopic Awareness
1 Shattering Spree Though shalt not make a machine
1 Tempt with Vengeance Dream prophecy
1 Vandalblast In the likeness of a human mind
1 Farseek Siridar Fief
1 Land Grant Siridar Fief
1 Nature’s Lore Siridar Fief
1 Three Visits Siridar Fief
1 Twinflame Axlotl Tanks
1 Cultivate Landsraad grant
1 Kodama’s Reach Landsraad grant
1 Tempt with Discovery Faufreluches manueverings

Instants (11)

1 Cloudshift Weirding Way
1 Ephemerate Weirding Way
1 Lightning Bolt Arafel
1 Noxious Revival Ghola
1 Path to Exile Exiled for Cowardice
1 Swords to Plowshares Exiled for Cowardice
1 Abrade A killing word
1 Beast Within Abomination
1 Deflecting Swat Landsraad Gambit
1 Eerie Interlude Weirding way
1 Generous Gift Abomination

Artifacts (8)

1 Helm of Chatzuk Maker hooks
1 Skullclamp Gom Jobbar
1 Baton of Morale Maker hooks
1 Blackblade Reforged Crysknife
1 Crucible of Worlds Qanat
1 The Immortal Sun Rakis Hoard
1 The Great Henge Arcana

Enchantments (10)

1 Goblin Bombardment Suicide Thopter
1 Impact Tremors Raid
1 Sylvan Library Ancestral Memories
1 Aura of Silence Great Convention
1 Gift of Immortality Ghola Process
1 Guardian Project Sietch Orgy
1 Nature’s Blessing Prana Bindu training
1 Smothering Tithe CHOAM directorship
1 Sneak Attack Opening the shield wall
1 Stranglehold Protection from Prescient sight
1 Cathar’s Crusade Fremen Jihad

Lands (34)

1 Bountiful Promenade Caladan
1 City of Brass Carthag
1 Command Tower Citadel
1 Desert Last Desert
1 Desert of the Fervent Graben, Sink and Pan
1 Desert of the Indomitable Skull tomb
1 Desert of the True Shuloch
5 Forest Forbidden Forest
1 Grasping Dunes Sareer
1 Hall of the Bandit Lord Sietch
1 Mana Confluence Arrakeen
5 Mountain Shield Wall
5 Plains Plains of Arrakeen
1 Ramunap Ruins Bled
1 Sacred Foundry Bandalong
1 Spectator Seating Planetary arena
1 Spire Garden Ysai
1 Stomping Ground Barony
1 Strip Mine Bahr bela ma
1 Sunscorched Desert Deep Desert
1 Temple Garden Dan
1 Wasteland Dust Chasm

Editor’s Note: Jesus, you actually did it. I thought you were joking when I read this in the draft stage


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