Enjoy Zada, Hedron Grinder? I’ve designed a Five Color Version where you can use General Tazri (or numerous other tutors within the deck) to fetch Zada, Hedron Grinder and chain draw using Expedite, Crimson Wisps, and other 1 cmc cantrips that let us cantrip through our deck until we assemble a game-ending combo.
The Main Strategy
A lot of Zada, Hedron Grinder decks try to either storm off by casting tons of spells in any given turn or they go for a slightly more midrange route where they can threaten to use pump spells to accelerate damage output via Zada’s triggered ability. If you want to see an example of a Zada deck that is based more around creature damage with a side option for combo potential see here.
Basically all Zada decks run cards like Expedite and Crimson Wisps because when you target Zada it lets you draw a card for each creature you control. This high burst of card draw is essential for propelling you into starting your combo turns.
In mono-red there are not many other cards as efficient as Expedite or Crimson Wisps. They exist, but they often have clauses that make them slightly harder to cast or they have huge drawback like Telim’Tor’s Edict. When we build with five colors there are a bunch of other 1 mana cantrips that can help give us more card draw (like Aphotic Wisps, Cerulean Wisps, Defiant Strike, Leap, and others). Because we have many more hyper efficient draw enablers this means we can likely chain draw (or draw until we hit a tutor that lets us tutor for another cantrip to chain draw again).
This deck runs so many more cantrips than a mono-red version I choose to focus on building towards 1 of 2 combos in any given game and only run a couple of pump effects. You can see from the infograph below how some Zada decks plan their strategy. This Tazri-led deck usually follows route B and draws tons of cards to the point where we can transition to route C.
The real win condition in any game is to draw as many cards as possible. Below are the cards interactions that draw the game to a close.
Combo 1: Dualcaster Copies
Requires Dualcaster Mage and either Twinflame or Heat Shimmer. You cast Twinflame or Heat Shimmer on a creature, hold priority casting Dualcaster Mage. You use Dualcaster to target the Twinflame effect that’s already on the stack and when you put the copy on the stack you target Dualcaster. This creates a loop where you end up with a infinite number of hasty Dualcaster Mages and you can attack for the win.
You can initiate this combo if Dualcaster is already in play by using Zada’s triggered ability. Target Zada with a Twinflame and Zada triggers while the original Twinflame is still targeting Zada. Resolve the copy of Twinflame that is targeting your Dualcaster, making another Twinflame copy. Rinse and repeat.
Combo 2: Empty the Warrens
This combo requires a little more setup but that’s OK because we have tons of card draw. There are many ways to approach Empty the Warrens combo turns but I’ll try to explain a more simple process so you can briefly understand how it wins you the game.
Step 1: Make a lot of mana. If you have a board full of 1/1 creatures you can use Battle hymn to ramp up your mana reserves or use Gaea’s Cradle to give you tons of green mana. If it’s the mid/late game Mana Geyser can possibly net you lots of red mana.
Step 2: Cast lots of spells with Zada in play. You’re either casting 1/1 creatures or using your cantrips to dig deeper through your deck via Zada’s triggered ability. It’s kind of easy to chain into multiple cantrips and get to the point where you might overdraw your deck if you are not careful.
Keep note how you are spending your mana. Most of the deck is red/green and our best ritual effects net us massive swaths of red or green mana. All of the goblin token effects are red and the elf mana dork effects are green. You’ll eventually draw Phyrexian Altar. This will help you balance your colors of mana when you need to.
Step 3: Cast Empty the Warrens after you have cast a lot of spells in the same turn. This will give you a bunch of 1/1 goblins. From here you can either cast Reckless Charge on Zada giving your team haste or Kick Goblin Bushwhacker for another haste enabler.
Know When to Commit
This deck is not great at playing around removal or counterspells. When you move in to commit to your combo turn don’t look back – if you need to redraw your hand you have cantrips, alternate combos to branch into, and Reanimate or Eternal Witness to buyback Zada if necessary.
Tips and Tricks
Early game tutors : If you are ever questioning what you should tutor for you should either get Skullclamp, Sylvan Library, Battle Hymn or Gaea’s Cradle to start setting up for your combo turn. Drawing cards and developing mana is very powerful for this deck.
Krenko, Mob Boss : Possibly the best 1/1 generator in the game. Expedite effects can give him haste to let him start cranking out goblins the turn he comes out. I think its worth a cantrip to get him working 1 turn ahead of schedule. There are ways that you can copy Krenko, Mob Boss with a Heat Shimmer effect, sac the original Krenko due the legend rule, then use the new hasty token copy of Krenko to continue to make exponentially more 1/1s. Reanimate is another effect that could possibly continue your Krenko chain if you draw enough cards.
Rhys the Redeemed : Very good token producer but requires mana input. If you cast a Twinflame ability targeting Zada it creates a token of every creature you control. Rhys can use her second ability to double all of those tokens.
Can’t attack? Does someone have a Propaganda in the way or they have an effect like Night of Souls’ Betrayal in play? Casting Outpost Siege naming dragons can help because it gives you a way to ping opponents with your 1/1 generation without attacking.
If you can help it try not to play a land on the turn you go off so you can play Gaea’s Cradle netting you tons of green mana.
Don’t be afraid to cash in some of your cantrip spells earlier on in the game if you have a couple in your hand. You need to cycle through your deck to find the cards you need to setup your combos. Usually the first cantrip that targets Zada and draws you a cluster of cards is the most important draw. Cards like Past in Flames can let you recast your cantrips, rituals, etc if needed.
If you think your opponents are going to snipe Zada the moment it comes into play you can setup other more elaborate combos. A big Mana Geyser into Skullclamp eating 1/1s can help you chain draw into enough resources to possibly win the game without Zada (using Goblin Bushwhacker as the mass haste enabler). This deck can be somewhat impromptu with its combos and doesn’t have a set in stone script – ignoring its dualcaster combo.
Tell us in the comments below what you think!