INTRODUCTION: IS ANYONE HERE A DOCTOR?
The precon decks are actually a good deal for Commander. You get some stuff that isn't available yet online from any other source, like Massacre and Yavimaya Elder. Plus, you get the good start of a deck, usually with a theme, that is a great place to work off of. Of course, that doesn't mean that you still don't need a doctor to go over it and fix it up even more!
The Doctor will see you now!
The Xira deck has some good stuff going on with it, but it does have some issues. Let's see what the deck doctor can do to make this deck more competitive!
THE DECK: BRING OUT YOUR DEAD!
Let's take a look at what you get when you buy the Xira precon.
Just looking at the deck, the first thing that pops out is the dredge theme. You have a good amount of dredge cards in here, including Life from the Loam. Unfortunately there isn't really a good way to abuse this mechanic in the deck. Genesis and Animate Dead are good, but I think the deck needs more. In addition, for a color combination that is known for beating face, there aren't a whole lot of scary creatures in here. The biggest beater in the deck is Rootbreaker Wurm, which doesn't really scare anyone even if it is large. However, there are a lot of utility creatures in the deck, which is good.
I played the deck a couple of times, and found that it wasn't bad. It definitely fit my style more than the Rubinia deck I looked at last week. Although it was good at blowing stuff up, I did wish for a big beater a lot though. The big thing I noticed is that there is a ton of artifact destruction in the deck, as well as creature removal. But even with all of this, I found that I was often dredging away good cards, and that made me sad. The deck was fine, but it had a few cards that didn't really fit and could definitely be more powerful. Again, I am going to make changes with a budget in mind. Let's take a look at what I did:
Out - Chartooth Cougar, Elvish Visionary, Golgari Thug, Hissing Iguanar, Keldon Vandals, Penumbra Bobcat, Rootbreaker Wurm, Shambling Shell, Vampiric Dragon, Wild Mongrel, Wirewood Guardian
In - Terastodon (.50), Pelakka Wurm (.08), Charnelhoard Wurm (.08), Dread (.12), Puppeteer Clique (1.00), Woodfall Primus (3.00)!!!, Deadwood Treefolk (.04), Bogardan Hellkite (.70), Indrik Stomphowler (.04), Duplicant (1.15), Crater Hellion (.30), Graveborn Muse (.10) - This is obviously where I made the most changes, by increasing the creature quality of the deck. First, I took out some of the landcyclers. I thought that with the land search I already had was more than sufficient. Next, I took out two of the dredge guys. I just didn't feel that they did enough for me or had large enough bodies to be meaningful. I also took out some little guys that didn't really help me. Wild Mongrel was meant to be a discard outlet, but he just wasn't big enough. The toughest cut was Vampiric Dragon. I love that guy, but I had to get rid of the some of the high casting cost stuff to make room for the new guys.
Each of the new guys either help with recursion or destruction, except for the Muse who helps with card draw. Crater Hellion is a bunch of fun and good at mostly clearing the board. Terastodon, Stomphowler, Hellkite and Primus are all good at taking out threats. Charnelhoard Wurm is a card that I initially forgot about, but after seeing it in action I knew I had to include it. Along with that, each of these guys is LARGE. Not Emrakul large, but still big threats. And that's what I liked about them.
Artifacts - I actually didn't make any changes to the artifacts. Perfectly happy with what I had. The only one that I really considered was Oblivion Stone, but I seemed to do ok without one.
Out - None.
In - Wild Pair (.10), Hibernation's End (.08), Oversold Cemetery (.90) - Obviously the Cemetery helps with the recursion aspect, and I like it because it is free. Wild Pair and Hibernation's End are two cards that I have wanted to try for a long time, and I figured this would be the perfect place to do so. This deck isn't made to completely abuse either card, but they should come in handy with creating card advantage. And I have been very happy with both. I also thought about replacing Fires of Yavimaya with Madrush Cyclops, but opted not to due to the resiliency of enchantments during games.
Out - Constant Mists, Lightning Bolt, Resounding Thunder
In - None. - Constant Mists was a little too defensive for me. Sure, it can come in handy as a surprise sometimes, but usually I would want a threat instead. Lightning Bolt usually doesn't do enough in this format. Resounding Thunder is actually pretty good, but doesn't really fit in with the theme of the rest of the deck.
Out - All Hallow's Eve, Chain Lightning, Edge of Autumn
In - Damnation (4.00), Decree of Pain (2.50) - Again, Chain Lightning usually doesn't do enough. I don't like the fact that I have to sac a land to use Edge of Autumn late game, as this deck can be mana hungry. All Hallow's Eve is cool and all, but giving everyone a couple of turns to prepare for it sort of defeats the purpose. If you really want this effect, use Living Death. I included two nice ways to clear the board of creatures.
Land - I took out one of each basic land, and included its corresponding Urza's Saga cycling land, Slippery Karst (.08), Smoldering Crater (.08), Polluted Mire (.08). This was just for the ability to use Life from the Loam more effectively.
So I ended up adding about 15 tickets worth of cards to the deck, changing about 1/5 of it. I added some beaters, card advantage, recursion and a couple of board wipes. With all that in mind, let's look at the updated version of the deck:
I don't know about you, but I think it looks better. Break it down!
Anarchist, Charnelhoard Wurm, Deadwood Treefolk, Eternal Witness, Genesis, Nezumi Graverobber, Animate Dead, Oversold Cemetery, Grim Harvest, Reaping the Graves, Dread Return, Elven Cache, Recollect: There are a whole lot of ways to get stuff from the graveyard here, and I'm hoping that I got them all. When I first was playing this deck I was worried about dredging an answer card that could help me out away. But I found that I was usually able to get any card out of my graveyard that I wanted. Of course, this sometimes meant having to regrow my Anarchist so that I could get Damnation into my hand, but it wasn't often that it took more than one step.
Abyssal Gatekeeper, Bogardan Hellkite, Crater Hellion, Duplicant, Flametongue Kavu, Indrik Stomphowler, Shriekmaw, Wickerbough Elder, Woodfall Primus, Ancient Grudge, Putrefy, Terminate, Terror, Ashes to Ashes: There are still bunches of ways to blow things up in the deck. The Hellion has been very useful at wiping the board at times, and each of the creatures can always come back more than once with the recursion. Even the instants are pretty good for one shot kills. And all of this doesn't even include Damnation and Decree of Pain.
Sakura-Tribe Elder, Civic Wayfinder, Krosan Tusker, Werebear, Twisted Abomination, Golgari Signet, Rakdos Signet, Gruul Signet, Explosive Vegetation, Kodama's Reach, Life from the Loam, Yavimaya Elder: The deck can be a little mana hungry at times, and all of these cards help you out there. I personally like the STE the best, because he is cheap to cast and doesn't cost you a land drop. But Yavimaya Elder isn't bad either. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Signets worked out. And of course, Life from the Loam is great at dealing with land destruction.
I did end up increasing the CMC on this deck by adding all those big creatures. If that worries you, feel free to add a land or two. But although I used a lot of my mana most turns, I never really found myself mana screwed. Just something to keep in mind.
I tried to keep as much of the original feel of the deck as I could while improving the creature quality. Keep in mind that your graveyard is your greatest resource. There are a bunch of people out there that don't play a whole lot of graveyard hate, but the more experienced players do. Things like Bojuka Bog, Tormod's Crypt, even Time Spiral can ruin your day by getting rid of all the resources you had in the graveyard. However, this deck is resilient enough to come back from one of those hiccups. Two of them would be real tough though.
If you are real worried about graveyard hate, you can play Pithing Needle or Sadistic Sacrament. But these cards won't always help you. Naming Bojuka Bog with your Needle won't prevent someone from playing a Crypt. But at least it will help a little bit.
Once you have a method of recursion in play, like Genesis or Oversold Cemetery, feel free to dredge away. You don't have as many dredge options as before, but the ones you do have (Stinkweed Imp, Life from the Loam, Golgari Grave-Troll)are actually pretty good. The deck requires a little more thinking than your average beatdown deck. You have to keep in mind the resources in your graveyard, and what the best ways to work out certain situations are. And once you get going, it's hard to stop you.
THE GAME: FIGHT!
Let's take a look at our opponents for this game:
No blue or white this game, which should make things interesting. Ashling notes that she metagamed for a Blue environment, so she’s going to be stuck with some dead cards. With Ashling, you can't really depend on your creatures sticking around due to her ability to blow things up. Kazuul could be anything from mana denial to just ogre beatdown. I haven't really run into too many Kazuul decks so I'm looking forward to playing against this guy. Kresh is all about getting him large, so you can expect a decent amount of creatures with enters the battlefield abilities. Kazuul wins the roll, and here is my opening hand:
4 lands, that’s a keeper. Since we have 2 opponents with names that start with K, I'm going to make Kazuul = K and Kresh = B. Obviously Ashling = A. Let's get to the action!
K: Mountain, and attacks B with Mountaineer (39).
Me: Draw Ancient Grudge
. Nothing that scary out there to blow up yet, so I'll hold it. Play Xira, then Gruul Turf
, bouncing my Swamp.
A: Mountain, then activates the Kite.
B: Forest, then Cultivate
, putting a Swamp into play and a Forest into his hand.
Can be a hurting with enough big dudes.
So obviously not a goblin deck.
Me: Draw a Swamp, play a Swamp.
A: Mountain, and activates his Kite. Then Manic Vandal
, destroying my Signet, probably as payback for the Greaves.
B: Forest, then Necropotence
. The Mauler is a 6/6 right now but he doesn’t attack. He uses Necro’s ability 4 times (35) and gets the cards.
I have never actually used Necropotence
in a commander game, mainly because the life loss adds up over time. In addition, it can make you seem like a bigger threat than you really are. I know that I've seen some Esper colored decks use it to great effect though. Tell me about your experiences with Necro in the comments!
Me: Draw Forest and play it. Then I play Brawn
, triggering Wild Pair
. Since the Mauler is 9/9 and B’s Necro is a little scary, I pull Duplicant
and get rid of the Mauler. I then attack B with Xira (32).
K: Fury Sliver
. The deck appears to be based on changelings, with allies and slivers to pump them. At the end of the turn Firestoker hits B (30).
That’s not bad. I can play Hibernation's End
if Wild Pair
gets destroyed. I play the Arena. A uses the Kite at the end of the turn.
A: Ashling. She has enough mana to hit everything for 3 right away.
B: Plays a Mountain, then uses Necro to draw 3 cards (27).
K: Mountain, then Kazuul, triggering Where Ancients Tread
, which he uses to hit B (22). Then Hammer of Ruin
. Hits B with the Firestoker as well (20). Says he is waiting for another changeling before attacking with his army.
K: Mountain, then equips War-Spike Changeling
with Hammer of Ruin
. Firestoker hits B (16). At the end of my turn, I decide to flash out my Hellkite. Before he comes into play, though, A uses Ashling to blow everything up except Kazuul Warlord
. I drop to (34), K drops to (35), A drops to (35) and B is at (11). Then my Hellkite comes into play, and I finish off the Warlord and hit B with the rest (7). I also realize that Hellkite is my only creature that has a combined power and toughness of 10, so I can’t get anything else from Wild Pair
. At the end of the turn Kresh is 41/41.
A: Mountain, then Insurrection
. Here is how things look after that spell resolves:
A has a choice. She can take out me or K with Kresh, while killing B at the same time. She decides to take me out with Kresh, but B tries to come to my aid by committing suicide with the Necropotence
. Unfortunately due to some bug, even after B is dead Kresh is still around. I end up having to blow my Terminate
on Kresh and get my other critters back at the end of the turn.
A: Mountain, Ashling again, a morph creature and Scythe of the Wretched
, with is a nice little combo with Ashling.
Me: Draw Abyssal Gatekeeper
from Arena (31) and Putrefy
. At the beginning of combat I play Cauldron Dance
, getting my Hellkite from my graveyard and putting the Gatekeeper into play. I use the Hellkite to hit Kazuul and the Changeling, killing both. I attack K with the Witness (33) and A with Gatekeeper and Hellkite (27). I then play Rakdos Carnarium
, bouncing a Swamp, then at the end of the turn bounce the Hellkite and sac the Gatekeeper, making A sac her morph (which turns out to be Dwarven Miner
) and I sac my Stinkweed Imp
so I can dredge a little.
A: Ashling again.
Me: I use my Cemetery to get my Sakura-Tribe Elder
back, and draw a Mountain (24) and Avatar of Woe
. Play my Mountain, and Dread Return
my Bogardan Hellkite
, killing Kazuul and hitting A for 1 (23). I then attack A with Dread
(17) and K with Primus, Carrion Feeder
, Xira and Eternal Witness
. K blocks the Feeder with the sliver killing both and drops to (25). I then play my STE, and A puts 2 counters on Ashling. I sac the STE for a Swamp, then cast Duplicant
targeting Ashling to make sure she blows up now instead of later when she can take out my big guys. A obliges, leaving my Hellkite, Primus, Dread
and sad Duplicant
as the only creatures left. Wild Pair
triggers, and I get Graveborn Muse
A robotic dragon! What's not to like?!?
One of the questions I got during this game was why I kept Xira as the general. However, her card draw came in handy a bunch of times, and I was never upset if she got tucked. The deck does just as fine without her. However, if you wanted to improve on the general, you could always use Kresh. Actually Adun Oakenshield would be a good replacement, as he could help with the recursion theme as well.
You aren't going to have short games with this deck where you just pound the snot out of your opponents. It can take a little while to get your recursion engines set up and your graveyard full enough to get really going. But once you do, you will move along that much faster. And don't worry about Wrath effects. This deck just shrugs them off.
The deck does lack life gain options. Phyrexian Arena and Graveborn Muse cost life over time, and when you start adding the typical combat damage the life loss can add up over time. Ideally if this occurs you can recur your only source of life gain, Pelakka Wurm. However this guy costs a ton of mana, so it isn't the most efficient way to gain life. I guess you could always add your own Loxodon Warhammer if you want.
The deck performed pretty well for being just 35 tickets. If you had money, you could always add stuff like Pernicious Deed and Survival of the Fittest to help you out. Avenger of Zendikar, Primeval Titan, and the other big critters that are played in Standard could all be helpful as well. This deck isn't going to stand up to the Zur's and the Jhoira's out there, but it should do pretty well against a normal field.
I hope you guys enjoyed this deck doctoring. Until next time!
Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO
mrmorale32 at yahoo dot com
CONQUEROR AND COMMANDER ARCHIVE