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Sudden Spoiling

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I may have set a landspeed record for getting bored with a deck - I have gotten bored with my Xyris deck before I actually built it.

Like most LGSs, mine was hit with allocation issues and since I wasn't planning to play the cards anytime soon, I was fine with waiting a few weeks to get my decks. I proxied the Xyris deck and decided to really go all-out and include fetchlands and shocks and Japanese foils since I was very excited about the deck. I was playing a few goldfish games to see if the deck's mana proportions seemed off, if anything didn't work as I wanted it to, or any other issues one discovers during goldfishing, and I discovered a fairly significant issue with the deck when I hit turn one Sol Ring, turn two Purphoros, turn three Xyris, and turn four Wheel of Fortune which would have hit the table for 42 damage each. Sure, that requires the table to not interact with me, but it also otherwise requires the table to interact with me or the game is over. Is that a non-representative start for the deck? Of course. It was also sort of boring. I realized that with the number of wheels I had, it was only a matter of time before I drew into Purphoros and the game became academic if he wasn't answered. I'm sure I'll have to jam a bunch of games with the deck to see how vulnerable to interaction it is, but I also think that if I'm right and the deck is consistent and linear, I don't necessarily want to inflict those games on people.

I'm leaving the deck together, but I think I'm likely going to need another deck to be as excited about as I was about Xyris and I didn't have to look much farther than the same precon Xyris was in. While I wasn't excited about Purphoros doming the table for 42 with a Wheel, I was excited about the rest of the deck - my use of Citanul Hierophants and Cryptolith Rite to leverage the Snake tokens I was going to get, the inclusion of cards like Opposition, Overburden, and Tectonic Instability to disrupt my opponents, the possibility of ending the game with Insurrection or Helix Pinnacle. If I'm going to pivot to a new deck because Xyris didn't meet my expectations, I'm going to want to preserve as much of what I liked about the Xyris deck as I can. Fortunately I think that's going to be possible.

Kalamax, the Stormsire

I will have to retool the deck, obviously, but something I liked about my Xyris build was my pursuit of a token strategy to power my spells. Using Earthcraft, Citanul Hierophants and Cryptolith Rite, I was able to generate a large amount of mana with my creatures. My opponents won't be providing me with creatures this time so I'm going to have to rely on ways to do it myself. Fortunately, I think there are a few Instant spells that do that in spades. Curious Herd comes to mind, and doubling it can give us a significant number of beasts, on their turn no less. Artifact Mutation can join in on our Luddite, artifact-hating fun and doubling it can give us quite a lot of power and toughness for a measly two mana. Arachnogenesis is fun, but two Arachnogenesis is more fun and that's just science. Sprout Swarm is a go-to card but I'm a little hesitant to include Intruder Alarm to go with it since Intruder Alarm will untap Kalamax. We might want to test Second Harvest while you're at it, since that doubles the tokens you have and then doubles them again if Kalamax is out and tapped. We will still have significantly fewer token than before.

As you know, Xyris was a token generation machine. Sure the deck made it rain tokens when you played a wheel, but every Brainstorm, Rhystic Study, or Sign in Blood the other players played got you tokens as well. With a steady supply of tokens assured, you could expect your Cryptolith Rite shenanigans to generate a ton of mana. That's less likely with Kalamax, so I'm likely looking outside of Helix Pinnacle for a "you win the game" card. Fortunately, I think Simic Ascendency is the way to go. Kalamax is very good with Rishkar, Peema Renegade since it gives itself a +1/+1 counter and if you look at cards to pair with Rishkar, you see cards like Gyre Sage, Steelbane Hydra, and Incubation Druid. Focusing on cards that reward me for putting counters on things and also give me mana means that while I still run Cryptolith Rite in all likelihood, I'm less concerned with quantity of creatures and looking more at quality. Simic Ascendency will get counters every time I copy an Instant with Kalamax, something I can do four times a turn cycle. This lets me run a lot of interactive spells, more than I normally run since I prefer Enchantments. I can forget about Overburden, Opposition and Tectonic Instability, which feels bad, but I can save the day with a well-placed Aetherize or Sudden Substitution more often.

Wheels aren't necessarily bad in Kalamax, but they can help our opponents out as much as they help us, so that whole suite can go. Instead, we can run spells that help only us, and we can double them, which is non-trivial. We'll make use of those wheel spots by running powerful spells that we might not always get to run otherwise, which makes the loss of the consistency from the wheels feel less bad (if you're into that sort of thing). Cards like Slice in Twain that were usually the first card I cut make a lot more sense when doubled, also, and if we're cutting back on Sorceries a bit (though not entirely because we'll be running some forks, which Kalamax can copy), we can run some Instants we might not run ordinarily. Let's look at the Xyris deck and see what we can salvage from it, shall we?

It's Raining Snakes! | Commander | Jason Alt


With this as a base, I think we can swap some cards out and build a satisfying Kalamax deck, though the number of Enchantments and Instants are going to be substantially different. I still think a lot of what I liked about the deck can be preserved, but we won't know until we start cutting and pasting, so let's build a (slightly new) deck!

Kalamax Zoo! | Commander | Jason Alt


This list is very rough and will likely need twice as much polishing as the Xyris deck did to see which remnants of that deck are bad fits here and whether I can generate enough tokens to bother, but I like what I see. I have some thoughts that came up while brewing.

This is by no means a Voltron build but it very easily could be with a small number of changes. I think cards like Mage Slayer, Soul's Fire, and Grappling Hook could KO players very quickly. Double Strike is my preferred method but cards that double power could work, too. Kalamax can grow large quickly and if you can hit them with Double Strike, that's usually 21+ damage. Whispersilk Cloak protects Kalamax and makes him unblockable, Champion of Lambholt makes it tough for them to block already and Simic Ascendency can just stack counters on Kalamax to end games. With as few as 5 card swaps you could have more of a Voltron bent.

If you wanted to add more token generation and just add Intruder Alarm anyway to make the deck more explosive, a few more auras or equipment to tap Kalamax couldn't hurt. There are already quite a few ways to tap him for mana, however, so I may just not be accurately gauging how easy it is to re-tap him. Elemental Mastery is a great card for a deck like that as the number of tokens you get increases with Kalamax's power, you can use the elementals for mana right away since they have haste (and sac them to an altar for more mana while you're at it) and it goes infinite with Intruder Alarm. Elemental Mastery wouldn't be terrible in the deck without Intruder Alarm, honestly.

What do we think? Do we like the Xyris deck more despite how predictable it felt even in goldfishing? Do I owe that deck a few plays to see how it actually runs? Do I need to add more cards to the Kalamax deck to make it playable in a particular area? Did I leave out your favorite Instant? Leave me a comment in the comments section. Stay safe and healthy and we'll be back next week. Until next time!

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