Kozilek, Butcher of Truth – Double Masters
Date Reviewed: August 2, 2022
Commander [EDH]: 4.38
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
My favorite edition of Duels of the Planeswalkers was the 2012 version, and of all its fun decks, the one that had the most lasting influence on me was Kiora’s. You can still view the lists here, though the page is long and has few internal links by modern standards; just use Ctrl-F and look for Kiora’s name. It really opened my eyes: before it, I still associated Simic-colored decks with the Jitte-powered tempo decks from Ravnica: City of Guilds and with the function-over-form unfairness of Counterbalance splashing for Tarmogoyf. There’s just something right about green and blue coming together to cast big sea creatures.
You’ll notice that Kozilek is in Kiora deck at the above link. He’s there partly for thematic reasons – Zendikar’s ancient cultures drew on his memory in their stories about their sea god Cosi – and partly because he checks a lot of the boxes that make big creatures powerful in the modern era. Drawing four cards when you cast him can overwhelm any opponent, and while it has an inherent degree of variability, your deck might be threat-dense enough to reduce that, and it makes counterspells less effective against him. Similarly, annihilator increases the likelihood that he’ll have an impact on the table and, like other Eldrazi, makes him very hard to block or race.
Back in 2012, the main ways of casting a card like Kozilek were to lean hard into land or artifact ramp, or use Jhoira of the Ghitu from Time Spiral. Nowadays, there are actually even more options to get that trigger without actually paying 10 mana – Jodah is devastating, Etali is highly aggressive, and Bolas’ Citadel is strong if you can afford the life, as you might be able to in Commander. This means that Kozilek is sure to be dominating tables for many years to come.
Commander [EDH]: 4/5
Emrakul and Ulamog have generally gotten more attention over the years, but that hardly means that Kozilek’s first outing (only reviewed once before on Pojo) is bad. It’s true that Kozilek’s arguably one of the weakest Eldrazi to cheat out…Ulamog’s indestructible goes a longer way towards ending games (compared to Kozilek’s slightly bigger body), and Emrakul speaks for herself. But drawing 4 cards for 10 mana in any color, on top of getting a massive tentacled abomination, is still a phenomenal deal and sometimes conditionally better than Ulamog’s Vindicate on a stick. In particular, that “draw 4” on top of getting a massive threat has given Kozilek surprising legs in Modern and Legacy as a payoff for the decks that aim to ramp with obscene amounts of mana (like 12 Post); he’s tied for the cheapest body of the Titans, and replenishing your resources on top of just nomming up a board each time he deigns to attack is slightly rude.
Kozilek is definitely a card that’s surprisingly subtle for just being the personification of “large”, and it comes with a lot of value. The “anti-reanimator” clause is an interesting wrinkle to try and ward off any non-exile mill decks (and still able to be worked around), and it’s rarely ever a bad deal to draw four cards for 10 mana when you also get a must-answer threat. Kozilek, Butcher of Truth might not be as eye-catching as its brethren at times, but make no mistake: it’s still an extremely good card.
Limited: 5 (if you can get to 10 mana, this is basically a “kill me now or perish” threat)
Commander [EDH]: 4.75 (being colorless has always been great, and you can probably justify throwing one into all but the most sleek and streamlined cEDH combo shells)
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