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Zellix May Cause the Following Side Effects in Commander



I have written about mill a handful of times in the *eight* years I have been writing this column, because mill is a very bad bargain in Commander if you ask me. Mill in Modern? With a good draw, them co-operating by cracking fetches and praying you don't have Archive Trap, and cards that grind them out like Mesmeric Orb, you can deal them the 50ish points of damage your weird subgame requires you to deal. It's hard to deal 50 points of damage before they can deal you 20, but if you look at it like a burn deck, you have a two-mana spell that deals 10 damage and they take 1 on every draw phase. Every Serum Visions they play just makes it easier for you to win the game, making them have to play very tight and win as quickly as possible. Mill in Commander? Instead of 50, you have to deal about 270 damage and none of the damage your opponents deal each other counts. It's a bad deal.

Mill CAN be viable in Commander, of course, especially with Phenax as your commander. Phenax mills reliably, puts you in the perfect color combination for a mill deck, and can go infinite with Eater of the Dead. Being able to go infinite with 2 cards, one of which is your commander, usually means the deck is actually far from being weak and terrible but rather a little fast and consistent for an unknown pod. I'll load up Phenax with friends but it's not always a good 75% choice. However, mill can be viable in commander, without Phenax, Eater of the Dead or really any Black mana at all. The commander for the deck? A brand new commander.

Zellix, Sanity Flayer

Zellix, Sanity Flayer sounds way more terrifying than he actually is (the "Sanity Flayer part, anyway - "Zellix" sounds like a prescription medication for GERD), but his third ability is potentially the most interesting one - we could, in fact, play Zellix as a Blue/Black deck. That would be fun and obvious and I almost went with it. You wouldn't just be a Phenax deck - the tokens generated by Zellix would be something you could sac to Altar of Dementia and keep the fun times going, meaning you could annoy your friends by saying "Big money, no whammies" as they flip individual cards off the top of their decks. What if we picked a background that wasn't Black, though? Specifically, what if we paired Zellix with the background we said we wanted to pair him with in this article?

Inspiring Leader

Inspiring Leader just makes your tokens more formidable. Ytwou know what else will make them formidable? If they're 4/4 Angels rather than 1/1 dorks. If you make 2 rather than one because you have access to Anointed Procession. Inspiring Leader turns your commander into half of an Elesh Norn. You could play the real Elesh Norn in the deck, but Blue and White as a color combo isn't really known for having good mana and it might be difficult to cough up seven mana. This forces us to make do by MacGyvering an Elesh Norn, but only the half that feels White, not the half that feels like it should have been one of Sheoldred's abilities.

Obviously, I'm kidding, if one Norn is good, two Norns is gooder, and that's why I found a way around the mana cost on Elesh Norn. We're going to cheat.

If you're willing to pay four mana rather than two mana and use a Sorcery that endows a creature with life rather than an Aura which can be removed, killing the creature, look no farther than White, the color we've decided to pair with Zellix. White has a whole raft of spells like Breath of Life and Resurrection that simply put a creature from the graveyard onto the battlefield. There's a problem - White cards that have this ability specify YOUR graveyard. You can't use Defy Death to get back a sweet creature you milled into their yard. We're at a bit of an impasse since Marshal's Anthem specifies your own yard.

Obviously, I'm kidding, if we can't get creatures out of their yard because our cards specify we can't, we'll just have to mill ourself. Zellix allows for it, and paying four mana to get Elesh Norn back absolutely rules. "But Jason" I am pretending to hear you ask "What if we accidentally mill our copy of Late to Dinner in our quest to fill the grave with big, fat creatures?" Well, luckily our deck is also Blue and we have cards like Snapcaster Mage and Archaeomancer to either rescue those milled spells or re-buy them.

All that said, this wouldn't be a 75% deck if we didn't at least TRY to steal their stuff, so we are packing the deck with our favorite spells to take their creatures from the board rather than from the 'yard. Sure, it would be cute to mill them and cast the White equivalent of Rise of the Dark Realms, but since there isn't one, we'll just have to resort to Sower of Temptation and Helm of Possession. Or "resort to" as I would put it.

Let's see how this pile looks when I get done tinkering with it.

Discontinue Using Zellix if Mind Flaying Occurs | Commander | Jason Alt

This looks... this looks fun, actually. It's possible I pared back on the self-mill too much, but with Zellix being able to do that for us, we don't necessarily need to add more. It will take some games to see if we got the right ratio of creatures to discard and mill to reanimation spells. I think it's likely pretty good but you'll want to tweak for sure.

If you want to tweak even more, I had to cut cards I love such as Thieving Skydiver and Thada Adel, Acquisitor. There is a version of this deck that plays a lot of small, evasive creatures that steal from them. I have sleeved up Daxos more times than I can count on one hand and not being able to do so here feels bad even though it's nominally a reanimator deck. Add that stuff if you want - I know I do.

What do we think? Missing something obvious? Did I try to do too much and end up adding 75% of two different decks, because that's not what 75% means. Love it? Hate it? Why not rate it? Tell me what you think in the comments section below, and don't be afraid to share on social media. That does it for me this week - until next time!

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