Convertible Commander: Xenagos, God of Revels

Author’s Note: We all make mistakes, and I’m guilty of a big one. For the first draft of this article, I thought I understood how the commander works, but I didn’t. I appreciate everyone who pointed out the mistake, and the article has been corrected. The deck is a lot of fun, and I hope you enjoy it! –M.W.

Xenagos, God of Revels
Those of us who spend some time playing this venerable game often refer to the three “psychographics”: Timmy/Tammy, Johnny/Jenny, and Spike. They’re pretty regularly misunderstood or overly generalized (we say Spikes are competitive, Timmy/Tammys like playing bad cards, Johnny/Jennys like combos, etc.), but the essential truth is they describe what players want out of the game. Timmy/Tammy care more about the quality of their win than the quantity of their wins. They want to win in some spectacular way, perhaps with a 12/12 Trampler or a giant Fireball spread among the opponents. Johnny/Jenny use Magic as a form of self-expression. They want to show who they are, and if they win, they want to do it on their own terms. Combos can be a part of that, like wanting to win with an infinite amount of hasty 4/4 fliers, but it can also be building a combo deck which ends the game with Divine Intervention or simply having a deck which never goes off theme — “every card in my deck starts with the letter ‘M’!” And Spikes want to prove something. They want a challenge. They want to win with, and against, the best deck in the format they’re playing, and they punish themselves for anything other than the tightest play. They want to be the best, and they want to earn it.

We can be composites. In fact, I’d argue almost all of us are some amount of each. But most of us have one, or two, of these which dominate how we approach, and enjoy, the game. (It’s worth pointing out each point of view is both valid and worthwhile. It’s also good to note each type can be a good — or bad — player, and winners of Pro Tours have been all three.)

Me? I’m a Timmy/Spike. Sure, I like to play with good cards and have challenging games, but more than anything else, I want to have an experience. I want to attack with a 14/14 double-striking Giant Adephage so I can make two more. So, um . . .  let’s do that.

Xenagos, God of Revels — Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

Kessig Wolf Run
This is a deck filled with goodies. Very little is here to be a role player or, y’know, do anything other than be fun. We’re not going to “ramp” or “answer problems” or “get value.” That’s boring. What we are going to do is get excited with just about every card we draw because of the potentially awesome play we could have. If this doesn’t sound nifty to you, that’s okay. You’re probably a Timmy/Tammy last. But this might give you some insight into why some people play cards you know are “bad.” To the cards!

We really want Xenagos out early and we have a lot of fairly big plays, so we’ve got to play some mana. Let’s start with 41 lands. That’s one more than this column’s normal, but we’ve got some big spells and we’re not running any silly ramp. It actually started with 42, but Firewild Borderpost is a thing, and it gives us two devotion just for existing, plus we can play it first turn, so 41 it is. We’ve got some free stuff that comes with lands — Arcane Lighthouse, for example, or Mystifying Maze — but most of the time we’re just playing lands which make mana. Kessig Wolf Run, too, can be a bonus later if we don’t have anything else to do.

A quick note about this style of play. We are intentionally sacrificing consistency for fun. Sometimes we just aren’t going to hit our lands and a 6-drop is going to sit in our hand as we gaze wistfully at the top of our library, hoping for any land at all. But other times we’re going to have a game where every single turn we’re playing action which affects the board in some splashy way, rather than taking a turn or two to cast some puny spell which does nothing but pull extra lands.

Soul's Majesty
It’s no fun to play Magic if we don’t have any cards, so we’ll want to draw them. Let’s do it in big ways. Drumhunter bangs the drum of big things to come. If Xenagos is live, we’ll draw an extra card every turn plus we’ll get an extra mana for our troubles. Soul’s Majesty and Rishkar’s Expertise both leverage our large guys for completely new grips. It’s even more fun if we wait until Xenagos has triggered for the turn, because now we can Soul’s Majesty for twice as many! We can use Momentous Fall in response to a kill spell, or Life’s Legacy if we need a new hand more than that Hellkite Charger. Hunter’s Prowess will give some giant Tramply thing extra pow, while Hunter’s Insight is a bit sneakier — but be careful, because it’s pretty easy to wind up suddenly drawing 24 cards.

We’ve got an Acidic Slime, a Reclamation Sage, and a Krosan Grip (just in case some jerk plays Blood Moon or is getting too threatening with an Assemble the Legion). Polis Crusher, too, can take care of some problems. Heroic Intervention saves us from someone else’s Wrath of God, and Chandra’s Ignition serves as our very own wrath effect. We might be able to Plague Wind someone with a Fused Armed // Dangerous on something huge, but probably not.

But really we’re here to just have fun. Imagine this line of play: turn one, land (whee!), turn two Primal Rage, turn three Fires of Yavimaya, turn four Blood Mist, turn five Xenagos, turn six Hydra Omnivore trigger Xenagos targeting the Hydra and swing with both. Xenagos is a 6/5 Double-Striking Trampler. Hydra Omnivore, meanwhile, is 16/16, also Double-Striking, also Trampling, but if we can hit someone clean every opponent will take 32 damage.

Rage Reflection
And this deck has lots of ways to have fun, particularly when we’re playing with Double Strike and Trample. Rage Reflection and Berserkers’ Onslaught give our whole team Double Strike, while Primal Rage and Gruul War Plow give them Trample. We’ve also got some individual hits, like Modern spotlight Temur Battle Rage, Shards of Alara limited bomb Sangrite Surge, or Fireshrieker, the perennial favorite for Zurgo Helmsmasher decks. Thunderfoot Baloth does nice work for our guys. Bow of Nylea grants Deathtouch. Strionic Resonator lets us double up on Xenagos activations, which can get really hilarious with the proper board state. Atarka, World Render affects itself, as well as Steel Hellkite, Savage Ventmaw, and Hellkite Charger, which could be extra hilarious because we could use the mana from the Ventmaw to pay for the Charger and have an extra attack phase. If we have, say, 7 mana available from lands, we could have eight attack steps. If Xenagos is triggering every time, that’s . . .  a whole lot of damage.(Seriously. Plug the numbers into your calculator. The answer comes out “a whole lot.”)

Malignus is fun with Double-Strike, because it should be worth enough to kill, well, anyone at the table. Rogue’s Passage will make that easy. Take that, Oloro, Ageless Ascetic! Siege Behemoth plus Haste means we don’t even need Trample. Hydra Omnivore loves Xenagos, Double Strike, and Trample a whole lot, and just in case, we’ve got some fun Bloodrush creatures which can be big and stompy if we want or just buff up an already huge dude for extra oomph. Urabrask the Hidden certainly makes a splash, and Xenagos, the Reveler (his Planeswalker version) will draw some attention, not to mention sometimes just give us a giant thing for free. Plus, we really can do that 14/14 Double Striking Giant Adephage thing, which makes me giggle out loud.

Sadly, we can’t fit every fun thing in a 100-card stack. Some of them break the budget, but sometimes there’s just not enough room. That’s where the optionboard comes in this time around. We’ve got 10 extra cards, each of which is swappable for some of our other big drops. Many thanks to A. E. Marling and his excellent article on the subject from a few years back for the ideas.

Deus of Calamity
For less than $10, we’ve got a bunch of cards we can easily swap in or out of our deck, each of which will play a bit differently. Feel like Urabrask is a bit mean for the table? Bring in Sheltering Ancient and share the love. Not worried about enchantments? Take out Polis Crusher and bring in Ignition Team, and wait for just the right moment. Don’t feel like Bloodrushing this game? Swap out the whole group for four other cards, just to mix it up. Play what’s fun!

There are a few things worth adding with some extra money. Avatar of Slaughter comes to mind; it’s pricey, but boy is it right on for this deck. Scourge of the Throne and Balefire Dragon, too, would be good. Stonehoof Chieftain grants an awfully powerful ability for a deck which really wants to spend most of its time in the red zone. And Raging Ravine would be an excellent addition, if for no other reason than it’s just straight-up fantastic with Xenagos kicking around.

Do any of you have a deck just for fun, sacrificing power or consistency for the sheer joy of the cards you love? Let us know in the comments!

This is not the deck to take to your LGS’s monthly Commander tournament where the winner takes home a box. It’s not the deck to play when someone across the table pulls out Sharuum the Hegemon while casually commenting she normally combos out by turn five. But it’s the deck to play when everyone is there to have a blast, and whether it wins or loses, it will make an impression and leave behind a great story.

Total cost of main deck: $98.31
Total cost of optionboard: $8.66
Total cost of both: $106.97

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