Why should I play this deck:
You like attackingYou like an aggro deck that is less affected by boardwipesYou want to be able to kill people from practically an empty boardYou like incredibly explosive jaw-dropping playsYou want a deck that doesn't cost a fortune to build to 80% optimal performance
Why should I NOT play this deck:
You're not a fan of a fairly linear gameplan.You hate being targeted for fear of being the cause of someone's instant death.You like playing control decksYou want to play a deck that is competitive and wins every game. This deck is powerful enough to demand respect but not enough to win in super powered tables.
These two deserve special mention as what they do totally screws with your entire gameplan just by their existence. THEY MUST DIE.
Horobi, Death's Wail: So, did you realize that Xenagod's ability is not a "may"? Yeah, this commander is a HUGE problem and against him it's difficult to even stick mana dorks, much less anything else. Even cards like Siege Behemoth die to our own Xenagod if he is out. However, we can lock Horobi out by targeting him with our trample lands! If we can grab one of those, then they have to pull out whatever land destruction they pack before they can deploy him again. In the meantime, we wail on him with everything we've got.
Derevi, Empyrial Tactician: This unkillable bird will give your opponent the option of essentially playing an infinite number of Deceiver Exarchs. Without certain countermeasures, this bird will tap down our one attacker if we try to swing into her, then if she has a sac outlet, it becomes even worse. We are forced to overextend and swing in with non-boosted creatures, which Derevi can chump block without too much damage. Our countermeasures are City of Solitude and Price of Glory (if you run it). Both punish her for trying to play during our turns. Otherwise, you kill any sac outlets if you can.
Firebreathing or Kessig Wolf Run + Xenagos: Always do it pre-combat to double the benefits from the Xenagos buff unless you expect the creature or die, just want to give it trample, or you have other post-combat plays.
Nonbasic Land Search for Ancient Tomb: Our nonbasic land search spells such as Crop Rotation and Sylvan Scrying count as ramp spells when you get Ancient Tomb. Don't forget this when choosing your opening hand!
Reliquary Tower (Or a land tutor) + Mass card draw: If we can, NEVER play our land drop before drawing a bunch of cards. The reason being is that we may need that land drop to play a Reliquary Tower so we don't inevitably start discarding a lot of our gas. If we can draw or tutor into that tower and play it before the end of the turn, we will have hand sizes that'll make monoblue players jealous.
Aggravated Assault + Savage Ventmaw OR Nature's Will: Assuming that you can refund your mana after every attack, this is an infinite mana and combat combo. If you are averse to running infinites, you still plays these cards because these are perfectly good cards by themselves in this deck. The combo is just a free bonus!
Extra combats + Xenagos: Xenagos gives his power-doubling buff at the beginning of EACH combat on our turns. This means that every extra combat gives us an additional doubling multiplier. This means that instead of hitting someone for 2x its printed power, you get to hit someone for 2x and again (or someone else) for 4x base damage. 6 times base damage will kill a player at 40 life with almost all of our fatties available.
Multiple extra combats + Xenagos + Savage Ventmaw or Rapacious One: This is a particularly disgusting setup that generally requires you to hit a fair dose of card draw before this route becomes feasible. Both of these fatties basically refund the mana you spend to attack with them and more, and so you can keep chaining all of your extra combats with the mana generated from these guys through each attack. This can oftentimes kill multiple unprepared players in an instant and this synergy is a big reason why this deck has gotten the reputation of "killing people out of nowhere" in my playgroup.
Early-game Progression (Turns 1-5)
Your first few turns should be spent ramping. Sometimes you will land a turn 3 Xenagos, other times you will have to settle for a turn 4. However the utility cards in this build allow the turn 4s to be more acceptable through their returns later in the game. You always play Xenagos first when possible before your threat if the threat costs 6 or more. This keeps people guessing as to what you actually plan on sending their way and also prevents sorcery-speed removal from stopping you. Secondly, the deck simply curves out better when you play Xenagos first.
By turn 5, you should hopefully be up and attacking your first target for a boatload of damage. If you have repeatable recursion or anti-interaction cards such as Mimic Vat, play it before you play your first threat even if Xenagos is already out. We expect our cards to eat removal.
The Mid-game (Turns 5-9)
Pick your first target based on board position, ability to win quickly, and long-game potential. Slam down your first guy and immediately start attacking. While you attack this opponent, do not overcommit by playing another threat. We don't want to let ourselves get set back by mass removal, Xenagos can only grant his considerable buff to one creature at a time, and our clock rarely changes even with the addition of another threat (there are situations where you can make an exception to this rule when you actually play the deck). Now, go look around. Did your guy survive the first attack? Did your guy survive a whole pass around the table? Now, if it did, depending on what you have in your hand, you can do the following..
Do you have an extra combat step? - Is the second hit going to be massive overkill? If so, hit the person that is the most threatening non-primary target LEAST likely to have open removal to get some value (and to soften him up for later), then cast the extra attack step and attempt to finish off your target. If not, then send both attacks at the primary target. You want to be sure your work is complete. Keep in mind that you're making enemies with the other person you hit.Do you have card draw that targets or can get countered by removal? - If so, if applicable, attack the person MOST likely to have open removal. This way, you are less likely to get blown out if they don't. Do you have card draw that sacrifices the creature? - If so, continue attacking the primary target. Play the card in response to removal or post-combat if you need more gas.
Whatever you do, you must maintain your pressure if at all possible, hence why we usually don't overextend. This deck has options late-game, although we are at a disadvantage because we don't carry the crazy late-game engines that other decks can run. The closest thing we have is a draw 30 with a Sneak Attack. We only stop pressure to refill, lay down countermeasures, or if there's a anti-creature lock on the board. Recursion is an especially useful feature I've been finding and you may want to play more than I currently do.
You generally perform optimally at this stage in the game. If you can eliminate players quickly, you're in good shape. If you can draw a LOT of cards with one of our draw effects, you are in even better shape. I will say from experience that your chances of winning go up exponentially with resolved card draw, even without a reliquary tower. The card draw is REALLY THAT IMPORTANT.
Late game strategy (turns 10+)
Late-game, your deck acts like a sniper. This is both good and bad. It is good because you can usually take out the person in first place very quickly. It is bad because the person in first place should know that YOU are the biggest threat unless the person has the board firmly locked down. However, in most cases, your opponents are going at full speed and probably threatening you with their board positions instead of the other way around. That's quite bad.On the flipside, other players may become the bigger threat than you. Hopefully, this might get some pressure or control elements off your back. Now is the time to punish them for this mistake. Here is where your wipeout cards and extra combats are at their finest. Massive mana producers like Rapacious One or Savage Ventmaw can turn multiple extra combats into chain-killing monsters. Aggravated Assault is also quite good here.Yet, the best thing we have are the wipeout cards. Cards like Hydra Omnivore and Chandra's Ignition can turn a single opening into a win or a massive amount of damage to everyone.At the very least, cards like Evolutionary Leap and Fauna Shaman will be able to help you by allowing you to throw away bad topdecks in order to grab more relevant cards.Smart players will not be dumb enough to give you a free pass to do stuff if they know how ridiculously spontaneous this deck can become
Pick your targets wisely. Threat assessment is the most important skill to play the deck. Nonetheless you sometimes may be confronted with too many threats at once.
This deck is a lot harder to build properly than it looks. It can run into a ton of problems that you will inevitably face when building and playing the deck. Let's break down the most common barriers.
Too many players- Aggro decks get notably worse the more players in a particular game. There is very little you can do to avoid this if you willingly choose to play this deck in a 6 player free for all.
Maze of Ith - Thankfully a good amount of spot removal + land searches can find stuff that get rid of mazes. Nonetheless it sets you back a bit, so do it only if you need to.
Blind Obedience effects- These are some of the more powerful hate cards that can practically deny your haste. These are high-priority targets for your removal
Opponent is building up faster- This is where you either are forced to aggro the player out by using theft effects against voltron or you need to take a turn to play control by throwing down a sweeper against swarm decks. Balefire Dragon is especially good at keeping swarms from getting out of hand.
Opponent is killing everything you play- This is typically the biggest problem for these decks. This deck uses a hybrid approach of playing recursion cards like Mimic Vat and anti-interaction cards like City of Solitude and Dense Foliage. These cards are essential for adding resilience to your strategy.
Opponent is holding all counterspells for Xenagos- If you can't stick City of Solitude or Dosan the Falling Leaf then you have to try and force through Xenagod at a opportune time. People will hold counterspells for you if they don't have the spot removal to avoid getting killed quickly by your deck. Control decks are simply a pain and so we need to be able to do something before the late game.
Opponent has a pillow fort- Call in a Bane of Progress (if your list runs this card) and hope to hell that there is no Martyr's Bond or Karmic Justice out. Alternately, cards like Chandra's Ignition can kill outside of combat. Nonetheless, most Ghostly Prison effects aren't terrible to endure because you merely attack with one creature.
You are not drawing into fatties- The fatty density is generally good enough that you'll find at least one or two per game. You have library manipulation, graveyard recursion, and mass draw to help with this. If you are afraid of not seeing threats, keep one in your opening hand.
You are not drawing into draw effects- This is an unfortunate effect of not drawing gas in a format where keeping up in cards is essential for many archetypes. The value of these cards is why we try not to mulligan them away when possible.
Xenagos keeps eating enchantment exile- This typically means that your metagame is warped to either deal with god-decks in general or YOURS in particular.
- Birds of Paradise and co: Basic mana dorks. They are fast. They can allow turn 3 Xenagods with an extra ramp spell. You can trade these ramp spells off with Survival of the Fittest or Fauna Shaman (if you run them) when you don't need them. Downsides including adding devotion and they die to sweepers.
- Joraga Treespeaker : This mana dork is a cut above the previous ones, all because it can produce 5 mana on turn 3. If it lives, turn 3 Xenagod always happens. This card is essentially a green Sol Ring and should be treated as such.
- Caustic Caterpillar: It is a tutorable enchantment and artifact kill on a stick. Not much needs to be said. Removes its own devotion when the job is done.
- Sakura-tribe Elder : Land ramp on a body. Never contributes negatively to devotion. Ramp survives sweeps. Tutorable when needed. All-around good.
- Scavenging Ooze: Graveyard abuse is some of the powerful abuse out there. Stop it and also grow this into something that can attack or being a huge draw-spell. Getting back a bit of life from the pain from our own lands helps too.
- Combat Celebrant: This is an extra combat card that will amplify the threat of anything else you attack with. If you do have something big, it will do 4 to 8 chip damage on open players until you play that threat, in which case you are very likely taking someone out in one shot. It supports your deck and provides some useful chip damage, all for 3 mana!
- Selvala, Heart of the Wilds: The card draw on this card is a very minor part of the card. It will likely draw you a card and draw a card for one or two people and that's it. Where the payoff is in the mana production. Early on it will produce 1, which is not great but passable considering what it turns into later. Later on, this card can make 12-40 mana and enable some insanely busted sequences that are almost beyond imagining if you have the cards for it.
- Somberwald Sage: Super dork. Three mana for creatures is quite good because it enables you to play a 6-drop and then play additional spells after the attack, such as one of the card draw effects. Or use the mana you save to activate Kessig Wolf Run before you attack. Good card.
- Tireless Tracker: This is dependable card draw that will help you in case you get behind and your stuff keeps getting answered. Even if you draw lands from it, if you still have this, you can keep digging!
- Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion: It hits hard, it is cheap, it loots away situational cards, it generates mana, and it goes infinite with Aggravated Assault. The best 4-drop attacker for this deck.
- Oracle of Mul Daya: The way this deck works, cards is generally a bigger constraint than mana, so if you can combine it with your library manipulation, you can play lands from your deck instead of drawing them. It's CA and it keeps you going even to the lategame.
- Ilharg, the Raze-Boar: This card allows you to use those extra undeployed fatties in hand as additional firepower and utility. Comboing it with library manipulation keeps you from ever losing an opportunity to attack. Being 5 mana is also very nice.
- Malignus: The one-shot monster. This has no trample but when its power is doubled, they must kill or block this, or else they will simply die. When you give it trample, it becomes truly terrifying. Also, the "damage can't be prevented" clause is surprisingly relevant. This guy is your way of beating infinite life.
- Carnage Tyrant: If you absolutely need something to get through, play this. It is very hard to stop and is a strict upgrade to two other hexproof cards in the deck. However, we play all of them because hexproof is the single best keyword in this deck next to trample. It has 7 power so that extra combats kill a player at full health.
- Etali, Primal Storm: This card doesn't have trample, but has a really strong attack trigger. Having guaranteed haste makes this card monstrous and we have library manipulation and extra combats as extra synergies. Best suited to 4+ player games and the variance is a little high, but it is a lot of fun.
- Hellkite Tyrant: This card is a monster. You give it haste, swing for 12, and then steal all of one person's mana rocks and equipment. The enormous advantage you get out of hitting a well-stocked artificer even once makes this worth playing.
- Hydra Omnivore: This card hits everyone. This card is awesome. This card when thrown at a defenseless player early enough, or at a weakened player late enough, will either halve EVERYONE ELSE'S starting life total or kill them outright. The wipeouts that this deck can cause are in large part contributed to giving this trample and sending it in when no one can kill it. Do note that EVERYONE will want to kill it for their own interests.
- Rapacious One: Crazy mana generator #1. It doesn't hit super hard but making 10 eldrazi spawns when you hit an open player pretty much settles any colorless mana concerns until you get board wiped. Having extra mana both makes your deck go faster and makes it easier to throw down your extra combats. The spawns also chump well.
- Pathbreaker Ibex: This thing is not strong by itself, but if you pair it with an extra combat or any other incoming fatty it does insane amounts of damage. We don't normally ever have more than one threat out but this is the exception where we want more stuff. The strategy makes xenagos a creature often but xenagos can also contribute well to damage output with this out.
- Savage Ventmaw: Crazy mana generator #2. This is by far the weakest fatty in terms of pure hitting power, but unlike Rapacious One, it adds colored mana. That is huge! You get instant 100% rebate that you can and will spend on something, and if you have extra combat cards, you can attack with this enough times to kill people just with this alone!
- Scourge of the Throne: This is a free extra combat given to a very well-costed dragon. The only condition is that you attack the person with the highest life. Sometimes, that person is you, but usually it isn't. Attacking someone with this at 40 will reduce that player to 7 from both hits because you get a second Xenagod trigger on the extra combat. Keep in mind that if you want a specific person dead, you can attack the highest life player with the first hit, and then send the 22-damage hit toward that other player. Also keep in mind that this card is far less reliable at attacking who you want if your opponents play fetch lands, but if you play them and play Ancient Tomb too, you can lower yourself so that you can at least hit SOMEONE.
- Atarka, World Render: It hits for 24, also has trample, goes super crazy with Kessig Wolf Run, and there are a statistically significant number of dragons in the deck that can receive the bonus!
- Balefire Dragon: If someone's board needs sweeping, send this in. They take a dose of 12 damage and they will rarely ever have any creatures left.
- Siege Behemoth: It's a 7 power invisible stalker that can give evasion to whatever else you have too. 7 power is a magic number in the deck because with an extra combat this card will one-shot someone from 40 health if this can live through the first attack. Thankfully Xenagod helps ensure that this survives most board states. Hexproof is wonderful in a deck where everyone wants to shoot your stuff
- Plated Crusher: Siege Behemoth #2. Works about as well.
- Emrakul, the Promised End: This is our only 8+ drop. Generally in a given game, if this isn't the only creature you drew and your permanents are getting removed, it can feasibly cost 9 or even 8 mana to hard cast. This eldrazi has a combination of size, evasion, resilience, and a cast trigger of varying effectiveness but one that grants an angle of attack that is otherwise unavailable to a deck like this. Taking control of someone else's turn is brutal, especially considering the number of decks that flat out lose off of sacrificing all their permanents or paying all of their life. Lastly, cards like Sneak Attack that can cheat the cost make this card easier to play. It does a lot for us late game.
- Sol Ring: It's sol ring! It's broken even in less-competitive decks like this.
- Mana Crypt: It is even more broken than Sol Ring in this deck because you are the aggressive deck where your life total matters less. With Scourge of the Throne being a card this damage even turns into an upside occasionally.
- Sensei's Divining Top: Library manipulation for digging out of bad draws.
- Thran Dynamo: We are mana hungry. This is the most cost-efficient big mana rock that doesn't let us stumble on our tempo. The colorless is not a enormous issue given we are a 2-color deck with all the untapped dual lands.
- Aggravated Assault: This card goes infinite with Savage Ventmaw and offers continuous value through extra attack steps. This is clearly a late game card but also a very good reason to keep hitting those land drops.
- Carpet of Flowers: Blue is such a good color that it is often correct to mainboard this. Also, if you only have an opponent who has one island, this card is passable, two makes it good, and 3+ makes it amazing.
- Sylvan Library: Library manipulation is good when you need the correct ratio of everything.
- Mirri's Guile: More library manipulation
- Dense Foliage: Make your dudes spot removal-proof. Keep in mind it does shut off some of your own spells, especially some pretty good ones like Chandra's Ignition. As for sweepers, you rarely will play multiple fatties, so with your haste enabler, the deck is naturally sweep resistant.
- Blood Mist: This is quad damage #2, only you don't have to pay to use it! This changes the clock of every fatty in your deck from a 2-3 turn average to a 1-2 turn average.
- Frontier Siege - (almost) Always choose Khans. It is not difficult to be able to spend the mana you get on EACH main phase almost every turn.
- Nature's Will - This means that if you can reliably hit someone, all your creatures (and extra combats) are essentially free. This is KOS for your opponents.
- Greater Good: This card is greater than good. You plop it down, then if you have any big guy that you double in power, you can draw a metric ton of cards. Even if they kill your guy outside of your turn, it is still insane value.
- Nature's Lore: Ramp is good. Ramp that gets you lands is even better.
- Gamble: Unconditional tutor in red! If you need ramp, go for Mana Crypt. If you need draw, go for that. A threat? Pick any you want. Extra Combat? Go for Seize the Day. Drew a bunch of cards and didn't play your land drop? Get Reliquary Tower. Just hope you don't discard anything too important and try not to play this when your hand size is 3 or fewer cards unless desperate.
- Green Sun's Zenith: It gets any green creature in your deck. Card is busted in half.
- Hull Breach: Blows up two things. I'm sold.
- Life's Legacy: Draws a lot. You lose the guy, but is immune to blowouts
- Sylvan Scrying: We have a lot of important lands to get. We need Strip Mines for blowing up Maze of Ith and Kessig Wolf Runs for giving our Hydra Omnivores trample. This land counts as ramp because it fetches Ancient Tomb. A reliquary tower is usually fetched otherwise so that any big draw you hit makes you go nuts.
- Wheel of Fortune - Unconditional draw 7 for 3 mana. Ideal to play out a hand fast before refilling. Be careful that you aren't helping another deck more unless you absolutely need the cards.
- Harmonize: Draw 3 for green.
- Seize the Day: It's two extra combats in one card! You only get to untap one guy, but that is all you need. This card can enable one-shots by itself with the extra Xenagod triggers.
- Relentless Assault: It's an extra combat spell. Worse than Seize the Day but extra combats are so good here we play this anyway!
- Chandra's Ignition: It clears the board, leaves your big guy behind, and offers a boatload of damage to all your opponents! It's a lovely card, and can wipe out a whole table if it goes through.
- World at War: Two combats in two turns for the bargain price of 5 mana!
- Rishkar's Expertise: So, it costs six mana, but it draws cards and it allows you to cast something costing up to 5 for free! That leads to a stupid number of plays. Extra combats are probably one of the best.
- Blasphemous Act: In multiplayer it usually costs one. It does 13 damage, which sometimes your guys can survive!
- Worldly Tutor: Basic one mana tutor. Gets what you need in a pinch.
- Autumn's Veil: One-time use to stop both counterspells and a good portion of spot removal. It does not work on abilities and the common white removal spells, but sometimes one resolved hit is all you need to secure a win.
- Crop Rotation: You get a land at instant speed. Counts as ramp with Ancient Tomb and is a way to get Reliquary Tower without needing a land drop.
- Nature's Claim: Kills troublesome artifacts and enchantments for one! The 4 life practically doesn't matter
- Vines of Vastwood: Sometimes your path to victory will come down to one piece of spot removal, and having this in hand (and you only really need 1) may sometimes be what you need to secure it.
- Beast Within: Green's vindicate. 3/3 beast can be chump fodder for your guys but is generally irrelevant.
- Chaos Warp: Red's vindicate. Can occasionally backfire. Awesome to use on your stuff that got stolen.
- Hunter's Insight: Draws you cards on hit for only 3 mana! The disadvantage is that you have to play this precombat, which can lead to blowouts.
- Momentous Fall: Draws cards and gains life. You lose the creature, but you draw so much gas. Can be used in response to removal.
I will not discuss mana fixing lands because the inclusion of those are pretty obvious.
- Cavern of Souls: Name God, make Xenagos uncounterable. If he's already out, name something that you want to sneak under a counterspell. If you don't have anything, name hydra or dragon. Those are the two most common creature types in this deck.
- Kessig Wolf Run: The single most important land in the deck. It not only gives trample and a mana sink, but with Xenagod you get double the power boost off of this land. It makes the nasty non-trample threats that much more dangerous.
- Skarrg, the Rage Pits: Wolf run #2. Not as good, but fulfills the critically important task of granting trample.
- Mosswort Bridge: This card is very easy to activate just from attacking. The attack doesn't even need to connect to get value out of this. If, for some reason, your Xenagod is a creature, it is even easier to activate.
- Reliquary Tower: When you draw 12 or 24 cards and then play this as your land drop, you deserve to laugh to your heart's content. It makes the draw spells that much better.
- Spinerock Knoll: Worse than Mosswort Bridge but still good enough to run!
- Strip Mine, Wasteland: Nukes big mana lands and mazes. Pretty good. We do need the mana from this land pretty often though.
Opening Hand #1
Forest, Joraga Treespeaker, Taiga, Scourge of the Throne, Dense Foliage, Mountain, Relentless Assault
This is a snap-keep. Joraga Treespeaker alone will always ensure a turn 3 god if it lives and you can probably turn 4 attack someone for 11+22 = 33 with Scourge of the Throne. Although we don't have a draw spell, the curve-out potential of this hand is too much to pass up. Keep in mind that don't have to play our creature on turn 4. We can play Dense Foliage to try and ensure that our attack goes through removal.
Opening Hand #2
Fire-lit Thicket, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Aggravated Assault, Forest, Mosswort Bridge, Balefire Dragon, Life's Legacy
This hand has ramp, it has a fatty, and it has a draw spell. However this hand is slightly imperfect because Aggravated Assault is not a super impactful turn 3 play and Balefire Dragon is a 7-drop. Nonetheless, it is acceptable enough to keep with the idea that maybe our draws will help solve a few issues.
Opening Hand #3:
Forest, Mountain, Wooded Foothills, Strip Mine, Savage Ventmaw, Malignus, Mimic Vat
This is a very slow hand. Mimic Vat is fine to play before a Xenagod but with a lack of ramp spells you will be doing nothing relevant before turn 6, which is really bad. It has lands but not much else going for it.
You should almost never keep 2 land hands without sol ring or treespeaker. This deck is hungry and we need to make sure we can go to 7 reliably every game.
Quote from plushpenguin »
Giant Adephage (Not really happy about using this again, but it will stay until I find something better)
Or, instead of giant adephage, Woodland Bellower? Not having evasion really sucks. Being able to get E-wit and Fauna Shaman doesn't! However, not getting Dosan is really big...
Or maybe a 7-drop evasive threat that draws cards? Like Dragon Mage or Knollspine Dragon?
Quote from Serberus_08 »What about running Mage Slayer or Soul's Fire? Seem like good damage outlets.
Hunter's Insight, IMO, is slightly better than Hunter's Prowess. It's cheaper and instant, and if you have any trampler enablers, like Nylea, or buff support (also Nylea) then the +3/+3 & trample of Hunter's prowess isn't as great. It also tricks off of Planeswalkers, so there's that too.
Quote from plushpenguin »
I actually cut Mage Slayer recently because I never had the opportunity to play and equip it. Chandra's Ignition is a far more powerful Soul's Fire.
Someone else reasoned too in another thread that Hunter's Insight is probably slightly better purely just from being cheaper. However, if there is a better mass draw that gets introduced in the future, that one is the first to get cut.
Quote from plushpenguin »Fierce Empath is worth playing because it gets everything super nasty except Malignus.
Quote from Cyxics »Quote from plushpenguin »Fierce Empath is worth playing because it gets everything super nasty except Malignus.
It gets Malignus, too. It's power and toughness are based on a Characteristic-Defining Ability, which is mentioned in rule 604.3 of the comprehensive rulings. Time for more of those OHKO's, no?
What do you think of Putrefax? 5 mana to get rid of a target player you can get through with it seems like good spot removal, no?