Hey Commander players! Extra large, double double is how I take my coffee when I get it from the outside world. If you offered me a cup you brewed yourself, I’d pass on the sugar, but it helps those fast food coffees go down.
When I first got into Commander, I built decks that were a lot more cutthroat and vicious than I do now. One of the major reasons was because there were a lot fewer options in terms of things like ramp spells and mana-fixing lands. Another was because only a few cards were printed specifically for Commander at the time, and they didn’t really consider a meta. No FIRE yet, either. The format was still in development, too, and plenty of cards were simply old and undiscovered. Or unavailable.
One of those decks was based around Xenagos, God of Revels. I actually still have a variation of the deck together, but it’s undergone a lot of changes. It reminds me a lot of my Akiri Speedrun deck, and if you liked that, you might like this. The list is on Archidekt, and here it is here.
Update Feb 19, 2023
This deck has been updated since the original post. Anything that searched the library has been removed. Seems I did a pretty wholesale swap…. I work on this one a lot.
Instead, Battle-Rattle Shaman, Charging Tuskodon, Crimson Fleet Commodore, Elvish Rejuvenator, Emberwilde Captain, Halana and Alena, Partners, Kazuul’s Toll Collector, Lizard Blades, Reclamation Sage, Shigeki, Jukai Visionary, Thrun, Breaker of Silence, Wilderness Elemental, Vulshok Battlemaster, and Zhur-Taa Druid have been added.
Artifacts – Bloodforged Battle-Axe, Captain’s Hook, Empyrial Plate, Inspiring Statuary, Mage Slayer, Masterwork of Ingenuity, Power Matrix, Strionic Resonator, Sword of the Animist, Trailblazer’s Boots, and Umezawa’s Jitte were removed. I’m reconsidering removing a few of these.
Lands – Cathedral of War, Evolving Wilds, Ghost Quarter, Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, Mosswort Bridge, 3 Mountain, Mountain Valley, Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, Raging Ravine, Spinerock Knoll, Temple of Abandon, and Terramorphic Expanse were removed. Some have been poached by other decks.
Instead, Blinkmoth Nexus, Den of the Bugbear, Desert of the Fervent, Desert of the Indomitable, Gruul Guildgate, Khalni Garden, Racer’s Ring, Ramunap Ruins, Shivan Oasis, Slagwoods Bridge, Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance, Timber Gorge and Wooded Ridgeline were added. As well, 3 Forest became 3 Snow-Covered Forest.
Playing the Deck
From the beginning, the deck has wanted to play a creature and fire it off into combat with the Xenagos bonus, really emphasizing the cannon part of the glass cannon. The deck doesn’t run much control, but does have a few flexible removal pieces, so it’s all about that combat step. Stacking doubling effects that are allowed to stack, unlike giving a creature double strike twice, is the key to the really big turns.
In the first iteration of the deck, I used a lot of cheap boost spells and creatures like Kiln Fiend to provide explosive attacks. Many of the creatures were evasive as well, and among them was Sacred Wolf. The deck was okay, and sometimes killed an opponent out of nowhere. Moltensteel Dragon and Immolating Souleater were big for me.
The second iteration experimented with infect creatures. Putrefax, Rot Wolf, and Spinebiter were all in the deck, and I even got a turn 2 kill with a Plague Myr and some pump spells. I don’t recommend this kind of deck. Nobody likes to play against it and doing 10 damage for a kill in Commander isn’t a great achievement.
The third iteration was pretty successful. It was based on crazily undercosted creatures that I could pump or equip and go the one shot. The best I ever did was 96 damage with an Outland Colossus on turn 5 once. It was renowned from the previous turn, and had Inquisitor’s Flail on it. Sol Ring and Strionic Resonator helped, too. I’m pretty sure there was a mana dork involved somewhere. Thunderscape Familiar?
The pump spells were starting to give way to equipment, and I was increasingly willing to play lands that entered tapped if they provided a combat bonus like Teetering Spires. The first couple turns were expendable if turns 3-7 were insane. I was playing really wild creatures, like Cosmic Larva and Sheltering Ancient, which worked surprisingly well when I could get the right setup. But there was a terrible achilles heel to the deck which plagued it something fierce.
The problem was that I could make giants, but single cards could bring them down. Maze of Ith shut me right off. Icy Manipulator could be bad too. Blockers with protection or immunity to combat damage or indestructible ate me up. I fooled around with some proactive tapdown, and filtered all sorts of creatures through the deck, including one that had worked well for me in the past: Sacred Wolf.
In fact, when I got the wolf in play, or managed to get a creature equipped with Swiftfoot Boots, I usually won. At the time, hexproof was in pretty short supply, and rather than rely on the few games where I drew the boots, or a tutor creature like Godo, Bandit Warlord, I decided to revamp the deck and make all the threats into the hexproof/protection variety. Which is what the deck is now. There are a few survivors from the earlier iterations, like Malignus who does really well with Xenagos in play. I even managed to get enough sweet hexproofers that I could cut some, like the expensive Siege Behemoth, in favour of new toys like Carnage Tyrant.
The deck has tons of game, and all sorts of little tricks and such to increase the power of creatures before combat. It tries to draw lots of cards, get out a good combo of ramp and dorks, and set up some quick, unstoppable kills. It even has some wacky backup kill cards like Grab the Reins. It struggles against lifegain, but can turn the Commander into a quick clock if necessary. Mostly it doesn’t want to activate Xenagos’ devotion, because having him stolen or turned into a Forest or something is bad news.
One card I always wanted for the deck but never got was a Sword of Light and Shadow. Protection from red or green (or shroud) all shut off the Xenagos bonus, so most of the swords are useless, but Light&Shadow and newcomer Sword of Truth and Justice would probably do really well.
Plenty of other cards would be good for a deck like this. Unnatural Growth seems like a slam dunk, as does Embercleave. I think Fires of Invention is worth a look considering how the deck would rather spend mana on equip costs than spells sometimes, and doing both would be amazing. As always, there are tons of tutors, fetchlands and other cEDH-appropriate cards that will turbo-charge decks like this. For the budget builds, most of the business creatures are cheap, and the pricier ones can be replaced with stuff like Cragplate Baloth and Jade Guardian.
This deck was a lot of fun to play back in the day, and while suited for a more competitive meta, is cool to bring out every now and again and shoot for the unstoppable one-shot kill. I hope you enjoyed this blast from the past, and maybe found a card or concept or two that you can use. Thanks for reading! Your life matters! Black Lives Matter!