The other week I wrote an article on SCG doing budget upgrades of the Commander 2015 decklists. My big restriction was the absence of any cards that were not printed or reprinted in previous sets, something that I thought would be interesting, both as a thought experiment and as a way for people to avoid spending a ton of money on upgrades if they’ve already bought a bunch of the precons over the years. I mean, I write about Commander on the internet, so I know I have all of them, but it seems likely that someone with a Golgari affiliation would have picked up Sultai and Jund in past rotations, at least.


It turned out it worked! But working in theory is not the same as being something I want to play with, myself; given my relative dearth of Commander chill sessions these days (something that’s a combination of social anxiety and being over-extended at work and in my personal life) if I think a card is going to be awesome in a deck I want to play, I can just gank it from an older deck. As such, my “budgets” for these decks tends to be irrelevant, and presumably wildly variable… although, again, I rarely actually check.


While my initial reaction to some of these Commander decks was muted, my update of the three weakest precons (Orzhov, Simic, and Boros) actually left me with some appreciation for these commanders. Between that, and the power of the Golgari and Izzet decks, I felt inspired to go on the type of build-storm that I haven’t embarked upon in a while. It even managed to get me to finish my Karona, False God “allies with rallies” deck, and I kinda thought that one would never get done.


(Like Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh or Narset, Enlightened Master. Red is the weakest color in Commander, for sure.)


But let’s start with Mizzix of the Izmagnus because playing with X spells is a lot of fun. As I’ve mentioned previously, the issue with X spells in Commander is that they often require a lot of mana until their rate of return beats out more static options. But X spells work wonderfully with Mizzix, provided you can keep hir in play. Each X spell provides an experience point, and it lets you get a fair bit of cost reduction, something that the static spells can’t really handle. If Mizzix has five experience points, Stroke of Genius is clearly a better spell than Jace’s Ingenuity; Ingenuity wastes two of the mana, reducing the total cost to UU and offering no experience, whereas Stroke takes full advantage, drawing three cards at a cost of U. I hear that Ancestral Recall was a good card! And this one makes the next spell even cheaper too!


It turns out there are a ton of X spells I had wanted to play in Commander, but for this issue. For starters, let’s discuss one I didn’t have room for: Breakthrough. My dream was casting it as a 133% Ancestral Recall, with one blue getting you sufficient XP mana to draw four cards without having to discard any (although there are certainly situations where you would want a smaller X for the sake of the discard; Dredge rarely casts this thing for an X other than zero, for example). In the end, I decided it was a bit too cute, even for me.


Another tragic cut? Epic Experiment. Now, I’ve wanted this card to work in a deck for ages, but spell-heavy decks tend to not be strong enough, and it’s a waste if you’re not getting at least half the number of spells as you’re paying mana to get. So, my initial reaction was “finally!” This desire cooled, though, when it was balanced against the fact that Epic Experiment into an X spell is weaksauce at best. And I wanted to load up on X spells. As such, I cut the X spell I had been dying to try out. It may yet still come back in if/when I get bored with the X theme, and if it does, it will likely bring Mizzix’s Mastery back with it. I had to cut that one for the same reason: these types of mass-cast spells typically choke on all the Xs.


I was excited to bring in Condescend, though, and I enjoyed the inclusion of Repeal. Neither of them are the most powerful spells, but the prospect of casting them for a single blue mana proved compelling. Similarly, I finally found a deck worth playing Comet Storm in, which was nice because I have approximately a million of those things from the Worldwake release (back when you got mythics), and I have yet to play with any of them. Had yet, I should say; that was a slam inclusion.


I was also excited to try out Mindswipe. I picture it being interesting as a UR counterspell that will smack your opponent for damage equal to your XP count. Distorting Wake suddenly seems useful in a way that it had not been previously. Displacement Wave, Rolling Thunder, Curse of the Swine, are all very good as spells that let you do an effect whose power level is based on your XP, just for a couple of colored mana.


Clone Legion, while not an X spell, has still been too expensive for me to play in the past, so it was cool to be able to play with that. Domineering Will, Aetherspouts, and Aetherize are all a lot harder to predict when you have to hold up only one or two mana to cast them. Even something like Aethersnatch ends up being superior to its Spelljack predecessor, at least in this deck.


But most exciting are the Force of Wills. I don’t mean actual Force of Will, mind you; those are reserved for Legacy. These are the spells which can be cast for only colorless mana. I’m talking about Flame Javelin, Act of Aggression, and Scour from Existence. These spells take the cost-reduction ability to its logical conclusion: zero mana instants.


That seems pretty good to me!


Sure, it’s important to add in a Darksteel Plate and Lightning Greaves to protect your Mizzix of the Izmagnus, and you may as well keep in Melek, Izzet Paragon and Jace’s Sanctum and Eyes of the Watcher and whatnot. If you want a nonpermanent only deck, this isn’t quite it. But it looks like a lot of fun, and I’m happy I get to mess around with it.


Jess Stirba is ending abruptly for the pursuit of Science! perks in Fallout 4.

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