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Getting Mean in Commander with Lord Xander


I've talked a lot in my columns about the spark which gets a Commander deck started. Well, as we started looking at the previews for Streets of New Capenna, one new Legendary creature jumped out at me immediately.

Lord Xander, the Collector

The thing is, I wanted to do Lord Xander for exactly one reason:

Sword of Feast and Famine
Aggravated Assault

If you suit up the malevolent Lord with the Sword and manage to connect, the Sword will untap all your lands, giving you all your mana again. If you happen to have Aggravated Assault on the battlefield at the time, you can use five of that mana to untap all your creatures, including Lord Xander, and have an additional combat step, repeating this process.

But because the dark Lord also mills an opponent of half their library when he attacks, that means with each subsequent attack, an opponent's library gets closer and closer to only having one card in it. Assuming we can get through to each opponent, we can make it so every opponent only has one card left in their library, which means they'll die in a couple of turns, because they only have one draw step left. (There is also the possibility they'll just die of Commander damage. It's actually a rather likely possibility, because if they have 60 cards in their library, it'd take six hits to get them to one card, and only three hits to just kill them, but never mind that. We're milling them, darnit!)

So, I built a deck designed to do exactly this combo. Fair warning: this deck is mean. Like, really, really mean. It does not attempt to make for a "fun gameplay experience." It does not try to "play fair." It uses a lot of tutors. It puts together a nasty infinite combo which will make everyone feel hopeless and beaten up. People will probably just go home, preferring to sit quietly with their pets than stay for another round. Read on at your own risk.

The Mean Lord Xander | Commander | Mark Wischkaemper

I think we can safely divide this deck into a few primary categories. They are:

  • The main combo
  • The secondary combos
  • Tutors
  • Ramp
  • Staying alive

The main combo, is, as I said, Sword of Feast and Famine (here because it untaps all our lands; we don't really care about the discard, but it's fine) and Aggravated Assault. Ultimately, we want to pull this combo off to drive our win. In addition to Aggravated Assault, we can also use Hellkite Charger; it's a bit more expensive and requires we also attack with the Dragon, but it flies and should be okay. Port Razer can only go as many times as we have opponents, but still is worth having in the deck. We do have to have the Sword here, as it's the only way we have to untap all our lands, though we have enough ramp I can see a situation where we can get two activations of Aggravated Assault without needing to untap.

We also need to get our Commander through, of course; the Sword is helpful but not everyone is trying to block with Elves or Zombies, so Whispersilk Cloak (make sure to Equip it after you Equip the Sword) and Rogue's Passage are both very useful here.

The adjacent combos revolve around the unholy Lord's other abilities. If we Soulbond him with that much-derided Spirit, Deadeye Navigator, we can flicker him in and out of the Battlefield, forcing people to discard their hands down to one card. That can be very useful in making sure people don't have ways of interrupting our other, more deadly combo.

Also, we can have him die to wreck people's Battlefields. Since this is more of a secondary thing, we're not going infinite; we're going to use one-shot spells like Abnormal Endurance and Feign Death to have him bounce back to the Battlefield, and we can either do that when he dies naturally (due to a kill spell or a Wrath effect) or we can sacrifice him to Attrition or Vampiric Rites. Mostly this is a nifty way to keep people from amassing a massive board of stuff; it won't deal with someone making infinite Goblins or Angels, but it can stop an Enchantress deck from getting too many Enchantments on board or limit someone playing too many big dudes. Note that Dimir House Guard is here because it Transmutes, but we can actually use him as a Sacrifice outlet if we wish.

The tutors are fairly straightforward. We have a bunch of the Black ones which are variations on Demonic Tutor. Increasing Ambition is one of my favorites, because it gets us three cards total, but Sidisi is also nifty here because we can use our Abnormal Endurance effects to bring her back and get more than one card from her too. We're also running the slate of Transmute cards, because why not? We have targets for each of them. As a general rule, Tolaria West should always get Rogue's Passage. Shred Memory will likely get Demonic Tutor, but Arcane Signet isn't bad either. Drift of Phantasms and Perplex have plenty of targets, because we need Aggravated Assault and Sword of Feast and Famine. However, getting Whispersilk Cloak with one isn't a bad idea, so we can use the face-down tutors to get the important pieces, giving our opponents less information about our plan.

Another quick note on the tutors. Whether or not to go hard for the combo or go a little more slowly should depend on how the game is playing out. If you know you have aggressive opponents and not that much ramp, probably play a slower game; build some defenses and whittle down their resources. On the other hand, if you start the game with two ramp spells and have two more in hand, you can go hard for the combo and attempt to close out the game quite early. Just because you're trying to do a single thing doesn't mean it's not challenging.

Ramp is fairly straightforward. We have a bunch of mana rocks, helping us fix our colors and make more mana.

To stay alive, we are primarily going to rely on a Wrath effect as we ramp up to our combo. We have a few, starting with Damnation and leading up to Decree of Pain. The theory here is we set up our hand so we have all our pieces, then drop a wrath to clear the board and the way for Lord Xander. Then we enact our diabolical plan and make everyone we're playing with regret their decision to play Commander, Magic in general, and completely rethink their life choices, possibly taking up a solitary hobby like baking or classic car restoration.

I'm very curious what you think of this dastardly Vampire Lord. What would you like to do with him? Would you build with him as your leader or as part of the 99? Is he incidental value or do you focus on what he can do, and if the latter, do you use all his parts or just one of his abilities? Let us know in the comments!

Thanks for reading.

Commander HQ: Decklists and Strategy for Streets of New Capenna's Legendary Creatures!

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