I Must Break You

This week Bennie builds a Commander deck around new Born of the Gods card Xenagos, God of Revels. Check it out and let him know what you think!

In light of the upcoming Grand Prix in Richmond—shaping up to be the most kickass Magic event of the year right here in my own backyard!—I’ve been noodling around with various decks trying to figure out what Modern deck I want to play. Since my man Deathrite Shaman has been banned, Necrotic Ooze is definitely in the running, but right now the deck that I’m digging the most is a G/R Devotion deck, which was heavily influenced by a sweet deck Adrian Sullivan wrote about a couple years back called Ivan Drago:

The deck was named after the insanely buff giant Russian boxer that Rocky Balboa squared off against in the fourth Rocky movie, a dude who was more machine than man and engineered to crush mercilessly. His catchphrase was "I must break you." 

The deck Ivan Drago circa 2009 was engineered the same: to crush people mercilessly with insanely buff giant monsters like Primalcrux. Now, I’ve heard about Mono-Green Devotion in Modern, and it just isn’t my cup of tea— a plan involving Elves and Genesis Wave just screams "sucks hard to Thoughtseize" to me. Like how Standard green devotion decks evolved to G/R Monsters to blank Thoughtseize, I want to take Modern devotion down a different path and harness the power of devotion and Nykthos to churn out huge monsters.

One of the cards I’m trying out in the Modern deck is my new hero Xenagos, God of Revels. He seems like a perfect addition—what’s scarier than a big monster hitting play than a big monster hitting play, gaining haste, and doubling in size? But while he plays a relatively small role in my Modern Ivan Drago deck, it got me thinking about taking that Ivan Drago sensibility over to a 100-card deck and making Xenagos, God of Revels the commander.

I mean, I tend to get wrapped up in all the fun and synergistic stuff you can do with various commanders, and many games come down to me sitting back and seeing how I can prevent others from winning long enough for my synergies to take control. While I’ve never been a fan of "aggro" strategies with fast hard-hitting weenies, it might be refreshing to take a different tack and smash face with huge monsters.

And Xenagos, God of Revels seems like the perfect DJ for that sort of party!

Ivan Drago

Kessig Wolf Run; Berserk; Fling; Tattermunge Witch; Predator Ooze; Leatherback Baloth; Unyaro Bees; Rushwood Elemental; Nylea, God of the Hunt; Boartusk Liege; Deus of Calamity; Arbor Colossus; Vorapede; Weatherseed Treefolk; Primalcrux; Cloudthresher; Hydra Omnivore; Khalni Hydra; Colossus of Akros

Where’s the beef? Here’s the beef! I’ve picked these cards as either naturally large monsters, monsters that can grow, or effects that can make the monsters bigger. I leaned heavily toward cards with lots of green mana symbols to better fuel devotion, and it’s why this deck ended up primarily green with just a splash of red. I’m particularly looking forward to having a Xenagos, God of Revels on the board, dropping Hydra Omnivore, hitting it with Berserk, and then targeting it with Xenagos to double its power and give it haste to dish out mass damage. And I can’t wait to monstrous Colossus of Akros, which seems the very definition of epic!

Don King

Arena, Ulvenwald Tracker, Pit Fight, Domri Rade, Soul’s Fire, Gruul Ragebeast

When Ulvenwald Tracker came out, a friend dubbed him "Don King."  Why? Because he arranges fights. This seems to be the perfect deck to lean a little heavy on green and red’s fight theme, though I love the free swing you get with Soul’s Fire that can even go directly to the face.


Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx; Gaea’s Cradle; Expedition Map; Sakura-Tribe Elder; Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary; Darksteel Ingot; Xenagos, the Reveler; Garruk Wildspeaker; Peregrination

I might need a bit more acceleration here, but I’m not necessarily trying to explode with mana, just steadily pushing up the mana curve with bigger and bigger threats. I wasn’t entirely sure Gaea’s Cradle belongs here since I’m not pushing a tokens theme or spitting out a ton of creatures, but even if I’m just netting three or four mana out of it, that’s fine, right? In this deck Nykthos is going to be the crazy card.


Yavimaya Hollow, Vexing Shusher, Nim Deathmantle, Darksteel Plate, Spellbreaker Behemoth, Eldrazi Monument, Cauldron of Souls, Spearbreaker Behemoth, Archetype of Endurance

While I’ve got a ton of threatening creatures, which makes me less reliant on any particular one, my deck still functions best if I can stick and keep a couple beaters on the board. Vexing Shusher and Spellbreaker Behemoth do nice work laughing off counterspells, and Eldrazi Monument and Cauldron of Souls do nice work laughing off mass removal. Equipping an Archetype of Endurance with Darksteel Plate feels like good times—party on!

Card Draw/Selection

Skull Clamp; Sensei’s Divining Top; Sylvan Library; Harmonize; Greater Good; Garruk’s Packleader; Garruk, Primal Hunter; Garruk, Caller of Beasts

With all these giant creatures, it seemed only natural to find a spot for one of my all-time favorite cards: Greater Good! Back when I wrote for Daily MTG, I ran a reader-submitted contest for the coolest Greater Good decks. One of the awesome perks of writing for Wizards is access to a god Magic Online account that gives you every card ever printed to build decks with, so I was able to play with a bunch of the submissions and see how they worked firsthand.

I first started putting Greater Good in my decks way back in the day to stop pesky blue mages from stealing my huge creatures with their new toy Treachery, which was a ridiculously annoying card. Sure, I’d still lose my guy, but I’d cash it in for a bunch of new cards. Their spell would fizzle, and they’d not get to untap their land. After playing Greater Good for a while—and running that contest—it soon became obvious there was so much more to it than meets the eye.

I’ve written about the combo of Greater Good and Deathrender before, and it fits perfect into this deck too. Equip a fatty, sacrifice it to Greater Good, draw some cards, put another fattie into play equipped to Deathrender, sacrifice it, draw some more cards . . . oh look, there’s Weatherseed Treefolk!

Outside of Greater Good, I wanted to add in as much card drawing as I could find. It’s pretty easy for a deck like this one to run out of steam, especially if it comes out swinging hard and fast, scaring the table into ganging up to neutralize your threats, so we want to load up on ways to refuel. Sensei’s Divining Top and Sylvan Library can do some nice work ensuring Domri Rade is a card drawing machine as well.

So here’s what I’ve cooked up for the party:

Xenagos, God of Revels
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 02-14-2014
Magic Card Back

As you can see, I’ve dipped into my Heretic’s Haversack with some answers to opposing Gods:  Unravel the Aether, Deglamer, and Fade Into Antiquity. I was considering my own vulnerability to those sorts of spells since I’m playing a God myself, and if there’s enough devotion, I can sacrifice him to Greater Good or Miren, the Moaning Well. But mostly I’m not too concerned. If Xenagos, God of Revels gets tucked, I think the deck can still smash face pretty well.

I’m not entirely sure Unyaro Bees belongs in here. I mean, I ran across him while looking for stuff to drive devotion, and he does that quite well but is not naturally huge. Still, it’s a cool card that I don’t get to play with much, and if I’ve got a Shrine to Nykthos in play, he could get downright silly.

I’m curious to hear if any of you have had a chance to play Xenagos, God of Revels in Standard, Modern, or Commander. What do you think of him? If you have built or are planning on building a Commander deck around him, how different would it be from mine? Let me know in the comments below!

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