Hey guys! It’s Peter with Command Valley, bringing you another Commander deck tech from the Commander 2020 commanders. Today I am building Xyris, the Writhing Storm.
I’ve wanted to build a Temur deck for a long time now, so when the Arcane Maelstrom deck came out, I was searching for the perfect commander to go with, and Xyris caught my attention immediately. He’s a token generator that cares about making other people draw cards and then reaping benefits off of that. Not only is he a great card to have out to disincentivize your opponents from drawing extra cards, but there are lots of cards that make him even more valuable and a powerhouse to face off against. The goal of the deck is to capitalize on the insane amount of card draw and snakes that we can generate and we have a lot of options for win cons that we can use to finish the game. Let’s get into it.
First, I wanted to start with my ramp package. For utility cards, I tried to include as many cards that were already in the precon as possible so I didn’t have to hunt down more cards that would have done about the same thing. As such, there is a slight instant sub-theme in this deck, coming from the deck that had Kalamax at the head.
All of these ramp spells are great instant spells that we can use on other people’s turns, and they’re already included in the Arcane Maelstrom deck, so you don’t need to hunt these ones down. Additionally, I’ve left Wilderness Reclamation in the deck. This is especially helpful for interaction as we don’t have to worry about holding up mana to interact with our opponents because Wilderness Reclamation will untap all our lands at the end of our turn anyway.
Additionally, we have Skyshroud Claim and Solemn Simulacrum, two incredible ramp spells. Skyshroud Claim is one that I try to include in any deck that has Forests in it, and it’s especially useful for getting your shock lands and new tricycle lands, so I definitely recommend picking up one of those.
Because this is a token deck, we also have some ramp that goes great with tokens. Growing Rites of Itlimoc is great for this deck because it isn’t hard to get ourselves four or more creatures that would cause Growing Rites to flip into Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun which will tap to add one green mana per creature we control–a huge boost to our mana! Cryptolith Rite is fantastic because all of those snake tokens we’re creating on other people’s turns will turn into mana dorks when it comes back to our turn. Battle Hymn is a great, budget ritual that will net us a ton of mana for the number of snakes we’ll have on the battlefield. Finally, Xenagos the Reveler’s first ability–adding a mana to our mana pool for each creature we control–is a great repeatable way to make a lot of mana from what we’re already doing.
While this deck is mainly focused on making other people draw cards, there are some additional cards that will benefit us in taking more advantage of the card draw than our opponents. The new Rielle, the Everwise is a great example of this, letting us draw cards based on the number of cards we discard for the first time each turn. Unless we have something boosting our maximum hand size, we’re most likely discarding a lot of cards, so this is really handy to have on the battlefield.
Also from Ikoria, we have Song of Creation. Even with the downside of discarding our hand at the end of the turn, the fact that we have so many ways to draw cards and we’re going to be playing a lot of spells makes this potentially a force to be reckoned with at the table. I’ve also included Frantic Search, which is a good, cheap draw spell that untaps up to three lands when it resolves.
Another great option is Consecrated Sphinx. With all the cards other people are drawing, having this sphinx on the battlefield is sure to net you a ton of cards. It is on the pricey side, but there are lots of other options to include in your own card advantage section; however, remember that benefiting off of other people drawing cards is the key to success in this deck.
Speaking of expensive cards, I’ll also include Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur here. While he doesn’t specifically make other people draw cards, he draws us a ton of cards and reduces everyone else’s maximum hand size dramatically. That means all of the cards our opponents end up drawing are most likely going straight to the graveyard when they finish their turn and discard to zero cards.
Which brings me to cards that give us no maximum hand size, to which we have a whole range of cards that can be used:
With all of these you basically get to take your pick based on what the main focus of your deck is.
Xyris is a powerhouse of a token generator, but we don’t want to solely rely on him to make tokens in case he gets removed too many times or we’re having a hard time making other people draw cards. All of these cards are great for adding some extra token generation to what we’re already wanting to do.
Really, any of these cards can be slotted in and out for each other to fit whatever budget you’re filling. I’ll also include this here, but Spark Double is an incredible inclusion for token generation. This comes especially in handy with making a copy of Xyris, but making a copy of any of these other token generators is sure to boost your board state as well.
We have a lot of cards that either support our tokens or give us extra benefits for having tokens. Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive can help all our 1/1 snakes swing out against our opponents by making them unblockable. Parallel Lives doubles our token generation, which can get out of hand very, very quickly with Xyris. Eldrazi Monument and Oran-Rief, the Vastwood can give all of our snakes a little boost, while the monument also gives them flying and indestructible. Beastmaster Ascension works great with the number of tokens we’re expecting to swing at people, turning all those 1/1 snakes into 6/6 snakes, and Coat of Arms makes it so all of our Snakes (including Xyris) get much, much bigger depending on how many other snakes we have.
Two last artifacts to include here that both help us with our card draw: Bident of Thassa will give us some extra cards for dealing combat damage to players, and the classic Skullclamp is a must-have to sacrifice your snakes to get additional cards.
Now, the most exciting part of the deck: making everybody else draw cards. On researching the different ways that you could do this, I’ve found a lot of potential options and I’ve broken them down into categories: Wheel Effects, Triggered Effects, Draw Step Effects, and Activated/Targeted Effects.
The most common one is wheel effects. I’m defining wheels as cards that make everybody discard or shuffle their hand into their library and then draw a certain amount of cards. Red and blue are plentiful in this category and there are lots of options to choose from. Again, take your pick from these, I definitely recommend only running 3-5 of these spells in your deck.
Everyone discards their hands and draws:
Everyone shuffles their hands into their libraries and draws:
Wheels are very powerful, effective spells that will make sure everyone is drawing cards at the same time. These can also affect you, however, because all of these will also make you recycle your hand for new cards, so be cautious about including too many of these cards in your deck.
There are a couple of “Soft Wheel” cards, which are cards that make everybody discard and draw but not necessarily all of their hands. Geier Reach Sanitarium and Burning Inquiry are two examples of this kind of card, and they can be relatively inexpensive to cast and activate compared to some of the other wheels.
The next category is Triggered Draw spells, which I’ll classify as cards that make other people draw when they perform certain actions. The great thing about these cards is that they require no additional action on your part and you can reap the benefits of other players taking their turns normally. They may also incentivize other players to change the way they play to get more card advantage, which ultimately is going to net you a lot of advantage in return.
Heartwood Storyteller and Forced Fruition are two great examples of this. These cards will give you benefits from other people casting spells, and this can be an extreme limiter for a lot of people at the table. They’re more on the expensive side though, so we have some other options that are a little cheaper.
Horn of Greed will make others draw when they play lands (something that 99% of commander decks want to be doing). Edric, Spymaster of Trest is great for this as well, incentivizing your opponents to attack each other to get card advantage. Finally, Glademuse is kind of a meta call because other people may not be playing a lot of instants, but this can definitely assist you if you have an instant sub-theme as I do.
Draw Step Effects
The great thing about these trigger spells is that they seem harmless upfront which will deter your opponents from dealing with them right away, but once you get Xyris out on the battlefield, you’re getting a lot of additional value right away and it can be hard for others to recover from that. The same goes for the next category, which is spells that make everyone draw additional cards at their draw steps. These will happen no matter what your opponents do, which means you’re getting consistent snakes added to your board.
My absolute favorite in this category is Teferi’s Puzzle Box. This serves so many purposes, from disrupting other people’s hands with a wheel-like effect every turn, to the sheer amount of card draw you’re going to be getting off of their draw steps before they can even react to the box. I picked one up from Mystery Booster and it’s cheaper now than it usually is, so grab it while you can.
These five cards will all give each opponent an additional card (or two) every turn, which means at minimum you’re getting three snakes from just having these effects on the battlefield. I’d limit these ones as well because if you don’t have Xyris out on the board, this can help your opponents more than you’re getting the benefit from them, which is something we’re trying to avoid with the number of spells that make other people draw in this deck.
Activated or Targeted Card Draw
The final category includes cards that make people draw upon casting a spell or activating an ability. Unlike wheels, the opponents aren’t discarding or getting rid of their hands after these effects, and instead they just get to draw a bunch of cards.
The more targeted effects are Channeled Force (a new card from Ikoria), and Blue Sun’s Zenith. These both make target player draw X cards based on how many cards we discard or how much mana we put into them, respectively. These can also help us out in a pinch if we’re strapped for cards or answers and we need to draw into something to propel our game forward.
Nin, the Pain Artist also helps us out here, making a player draw X cards and dealing X damage to one of their creatures. Thus, this serves a purpose of target removal as well as being a way to repeatedly make someone draw a ton of cards if we have the mana to sink into it. And remember, with our token synergistic ramp, we can benefit from the number of creatures we have to make someone draw and make us make even more snakes.
Our other cards in this category include Jace Beleren, Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, and Minds Aglow. I especially like Minds Aglow; even though your opponents would be smart not to pay any mana into it, you can still pump a ton into this spell and benefit from everybody drawing a ton of cards.
Before we move on to our Win Cons, let’s take a moment to talk about the interaction in this deck. Whenever possible, you are going to want spells that let you draw cards or make other people draw cards while also dealing with something they are casting or something on their board. Arcane Denial and Dream Fracture are great options for counterspells that do this, making you and the opponent casting the spell draw cards.
Another notable include is Artifact Mutation, which was already found in the Arcane Maelstrom deck as well. While it doesn’t draw us cards, it does destroy an artifact and gives us a bunch of tokens for only two mana.
I won’t go into the rest of the cards that I put into this category (because they aren’t terribly relevant for the theme of the deck) but if you’re curious as to what I did end up putting in for Interaction, check out the full decklist below.
The fantastic thing about Xyris is that there are so many options when it comes to win cons that you can really take this deck in whatever way you want. One that I didn’t put a lot of resources into, but is certainly an option, is a mill strategy. If you’re making other people draw so many cards, most likely they’re going to be running out of cards really quickly in their deck, so you can use other mill spells to extend this even further. I did include Altar of Dementia in this deck to finish off opponents that are close by sacrificing a ton of snake tokens to make them mill.
Another potential route is the Niv-Mizzet, Parun and Curiosity combo. If you’re unfamiliar with the combo, the basic idea is that you attach Curiosity to Niv-Mizzet, and then you either need to cast an instant or sorcery or otherwise draw a card. This gives infinite activations to Niv-Mizzet and Curiosity and you can ping each of your opponents down to 0. It’s a sub-combo to the deck and it’s definitely optional to play, but if you’re playing Niv-Mizzet, Parun in your deck, you may as well include Curiosity just in case you draw into both. It’s definitely optional though, and I’m not running this combo in my deck either.
You could also do a self-mill strategy, coming down to using Blue Sun’s Zenith to draw yourself out and then using Laboratory Maniac, Thassa’s Oracle, or Jace, Wielder of Mysteries to win the game. I’ve included Thassa’s Oracle on the off chance of this happening to me and I don’t have any other win cons to lean on, but with the number of cards you’re making everybody else draw, you’re bound to be running out of deck quickly too.
I’ve come down to two different win strategies for this deck: either an Impact Tremors strategy to deal damage to your opponents whenever you make snakes, or an Overrun strategy swinging out at your opponents with a bunch of big snakes. I’ve played with this deck multiple times and either win con strategy seems equally likely to happen. If you want to go with Impact Tremors, there are a few cards that will help you get there:
All of these essentially equate to this: get a certain amount of tokens and you’ll do enough damage to your opponents to win. Purphoros is especially powerful here allowing you to pump up your tokens if you get to the point where you want to swing with them, but I’ve seen Purphoros just win the game for you with the number of cards your opponents are drawing (you only have to make them draw 20 cards and it’s game over).
For the Overrun strategy, we’ve got some options as well, but this does seem to be the more expensive option of the bunch, so I’d recommend weighing the budget of your deck in consideration when deciding between these.
With the right amount of tokens on the battlefield, either one of these strategies is going to allow you to win the game very, very quickly. I’ve seen games where I use the Impact Tremors strategy to grind down my opponents’ health, and then use Overrun to finish them off, so I feel like these strategies work really well with each other also.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post! We hope you enjoyed the possibilities that Xyris can bring to the table. If you liked this video, don’t forget to subscribe for future deck techs and gameplay videos. We just released Duel of the Peaks episode 4, and it’s a fantastic series so if you haven’t watched it yet, go check it out on our channel. Our thanks again to Game Grid for sponsoring this video, and we’ll see you guys in the next deck tech.
Full deck list: