The Great Ixalan Deck Update

Sheldon Menery’s dozens-strong Commander lists are getting an Ixalan-themed makeover! See who’s in, who’s out, and who’s going places never seen before as he reveals his planned changes and the three tribal-themed decks he wants to build next!

Welcome to the best and the worst of what happens whenever a new Magic set comes out.

The best: getting to put cool new cards, in this case from Ixalan, into my ever-growing suite of Commander decks.

The worst: saying good-bye to cards I like but need to move aside for the new ones.

In fact, unless there’s a particular reason for removing a card other than just making space (for example, it’s going into another deck), I won’t mention why. One of the reasons I’ve decided to build an armada of decks (42 physically assembled and growing) is that I want space for all the great cards and card interactions our favorite format brings.

So here’s hello to you, Ixalan, you flavor-rich NKotB, and good-bye to you, friends of bygone days.


Into: Heliod, God of Enchantments

For: Luminarch Ascension

Ashes of the Abhorrent is going to mess with quite a few decks; I predict that the first card shut down by it is Genesis. To me, the card is more about gaining life. This deck likes to make creatures, and if they happen to die, a little extra life will do quite nicely.

Into: Karador Do-Over

For: Retribution of the Ancients

Whether it’s to swap mine with the highest life total or to just screw around with two opponents, I suspect there will be some huge blowouts with Axis of Mortality. Obviously, if I were mean, I’d play it with Sorin Markov, Enigma Sphinx, and/or Wound Reflection. Fortunately for my friends, I like them.

Into: Aurelia Goes to War

For: Dragonrage

Strategically, you have to hold back Bishop of Rebirth until the first Wrath of God happens—which it needs to, or the swarm of creatures Aurelia puts out can get rather deadly rather quickly. Then, get to the Bishop.

Into: Aurelia Goes to War

For: War Cadence

In the Aurelia deck, I also don’t want blockers, so I’m nicking one of the Dinosaurs from the deck I’ll eventually build. Having creatures enter the battlefield tapped also gets rid of hasty shenanigans from other players.

Into: You Did This to Yourself

For: Helm of Obedience (to Glissa, Glissa)

I’m still dreaming about the day I get to Reins of Power and Settle the Wreckage. It will be glorious. In a pinch, Settle the Wreckage is tutorable with Sunforger, so there’s wins all around.


Into: Thassa, God of Merfolk

For: Rhystic Study

Casting Merfolk to make more Merfolk is a path to, well, lots of Merfolk. It makes me wonder if Kopala, Warden of Waves, is a better commander for this deck. You might think I’m insane for taking out Rhystic Study, but—no, I’m pretty much insane. This one won’t sit idle; I’ll find a slot for it somewhere (like maybe that Pirate deck which will eventually come).

Into: The Mill-Meoplasm

For: Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord

The mill deck loves Traumatize on a stick. The only issue might be keeping it alive on later turns, but after it attacks a few times, the work is done anyway. If it gets killed, I can always copy it with The Mimeoplasm.

Into: Zegana and a Dice Bag

For: Sages of the Anima

Nearly every creature in this deck ends up with +1/+1 counters on it. There’s a nice little redundancy system built in with Crowned Ceratok and Herald of Secret Streams; the latter is obviously better, but either will do. My only issue here is that it looks like they’re setting up Merfolk to be river creatures instead of the sea, which undercuts the whole deck theme.

Into: Thassa, God of Merfolk

For: Breaching Leviathan

It looks like evidence is mounting to have Kopala rise up and take over for Thassa—but for now, Thassa will stay in charge as payment for her many years of excellent service.

Into: The Altar of Thraximundar

For: Cryptic Command (to Kynaios and Tiro)

There are a few things at play here. First of all, Cryptic Command is sometimes difficult to cast in this deck, what with the requirement of three blue mana. Sure, Spell Swindle does less and costs more, but well-timed it provides the boost an often mana-hungry deck needs to get there. Hrm—I suppose I could wait for Iconic Masters and just get a Mana Drain, too.


Into: Rakdos Reimagined

For: Grave Betrayal

Rakdos, Lord of Riots leads my Vampire deck, so I need more Vampires. I don’t necessarily want to use all the Vampires from Ixalan, because (as I’ll discuss later) I might want to build a B/W Vampire Clerics deck.

Into: The Mill-Meoplasm

For: Talent of the Telepath

In a game with very full graveyards, I suspect that Boneyard Parley is going to lead to some absurd situations. Since I get to pick from everyone’s graveyeards, I’m sure there will be a Sepulchral Primordial here or a Puppeteer Clique there—maybe in multiples. The great thing about Boneyard Parley is that I can use some of my own creatures as bait, since they’ll simply get put back into the graveyard if they’re not in the pile I pick.

Into: Rakdos Reimagined

For: Sheoldred, Whispering One

Like I said, Rakdos needs more Vampires. The best thing about Sanctum Seeker is that it will turn on Rakdos so that I can actually cast it.


Into: The Threat of Yasova

For: Forgestoker Dragon (to Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky)

No, really. Threaten on a permanent is just silly, even if it’s a creature, the most vulnerable of all permanent types in Commander. Yasova will be very happy to borrow creatures. Even more fun will be just keeping them longer if I also have Willbreaker. Forgestoker Dragon got into this deck because it was a gift from my friend Ron Foster (delivered by his co-worker and my fellow Commander Rules Committee member Scott Larabee) just as I was building the Yasova deck. It will now go where it belongs, with its Dragon kin.

Into: The Threat of Yasova

For: Bear Umbra (to my Commander 2017 League deck)

The only downside to Hijack is that I only have a few sacrifice outlets for noncreature artifacts. Perilous Research is probably the most affordable, but there’s also Read the Runes. And don’t tell Shea, Anthony, or Keith, but I’m probably drafting that Bear Umbra in our Commander 2017 League.

Into: Demons of Kaalia

For: Deathpact Angel

Another one that I want to play well before I get around to building that Dinosaur deck, I just realized that Rampaging Ferocidon and Darien, King of Kjeldor might qualify as an Idiotic Combo. Fortunately, Darien’s triggered ability is optional.

Into: Animar’s Swarm

For: Sylvan Ranger

The Animar, Soul of Elements deck is all about casting things for next to nothing, so why not do more of it? Casting an Eldrazi for zero mana and then getting to cast something else huge for free is what this game is all about, right?

Into: You Did This to Yourself

For: Mirror Match

If I were to have designed a card myself to go into the Ruhan of the Fomori deck, it would be very much like Trove of Temptation. I think I’ll get a T-shirt that says “Come at me, bro.” I won’t wear it in games, but the message should be clear.


Into: Karador Version 3

For: Riftsweeper

I’m gaining life off Deathgorge Scavenger, since creatures in other peoples’ graveyards scare me. Sure, this is no Scavenging Ooze, but what is?

Into: Commander 2017 deck

It seems like the majority of removal in the League so far has been targeted, so Shapers’ Sanctuary is worthwhile. The deck already has Asceticism in it, but it can be expensive, and there are times at which I need something more active for my five mana. I’m certainly not taking out Asceticism, but I’m finding room for Shaper’s Sanctuary.

Into: Kresh Into the Red Zone

For: Crypt Incursion

Because the Kresh deck likes to sacrifice things (especially for Fling action), getting the creature back and drawing a card is a most excellent response. Obviously, it also helps when creatures are just wiped out and I want to start the recovery process. My favorite use of this will either be with a Woodfall Primus which has a -1/-1 counter on it or to get an additional use out of Anathemancer.

Into: Halloween with Karador

For: The Gitrog Monster

Continuing the lifegain subtheme of the deck, Verdant Sun’s Avatar will continue to pile up the numbers in my grindiest decks. The Gitrog Monster won’t be long for another deck, since there are a few more yet to be built.


Into: Ikra and Kydele

For: Phytotitan

Another Pirate that I simply don’t want to wait to play, Hostage Taker provides many cool options, not the least of which is to protect your own creatures in a Wrath-happy environment. I’ll dream of someday taking hostage a Progenitor Mimic.


Into: Rith’s Tokens

For: Godsend (to my Commander 2017 deck)

The extra Gaea’s Cradle has to go into the deck which already has the original in it (and creates piles of tokens). This card is likely to be frequently discussed in the near future, and we’ve already promised to keep an eye on those discussions. I’m going to upgrade a few of the Equipment in the Cat tribal deck, and Godsend is a choice. Sword of Fire and Ice, Sword of Light and Shadow, Sword of War and Peace, and Sword of Feast and Famine are all other possibilities.

Into: Rakdos Reimagined

For: Staff of Nin

The Vampire deck has the right kind of creatures to enable transforming Dowsing Dagger into Lost Vale rather quickly. The transformation could then set up the mana to cast Rakdos, Lord of Riots on that same turn.

Into: Dreaming of Intet

For: Nissa, Steward of Elements

This Intet, the Dreamer deck has my highest number of instants and sorceries, so it makes sense to add the thing that makes them easier to cast. The deck then likes to cast a big Comet Storm, hopefully copied with Pyromancer’s Goggles, so copying it again seems like winning all around.

Into: Trostani and Her Angels

For: Maze of Ith

The more I think about Thaumatic Compass, the more I like it. Maze of Ith in an early hand is awkward—it’s a land that doesn’t do much. Thaumatic Compass builds your resources up to the point at which you’re likely to need the Spires of Orazca and then there it is. Great design and development.

Artifact and Land

Into: Zombies of Tresserhorn

For: Deadapult

Pillar of Origins is the card that nongreen tribal decks have wanted for quite a while. It came down to either Lazav and its Shapeshifters or the Zombies; Lord of Tresserhorn won out because it’s the deck I currently enjoy playing more. Just this past week, Zombie Apocalypse was particularly useful, as it took out Grand Arbiter Augustin IV while it was setting up the eating of brains.

Into: Gisa and Geralf Together Forever

For: Fact or Fiction (to Yidris: Money for Nothing, Cards for Free)

After getting Pillar of Origins, it felt a little unfair to give Vanquisher’s Banner to the Lord of Tresserhorn deck, so the other Zombie deck got it instead.

Into: Zombies of Tresserhorn

For: Akoum Refuge

More and more, I simply want fewer enters-the-battlefield tapped lands, so it’s out with Akoum Refuge and in with something better for tribal decks.

Decks to Build

There are two, possibly three, decks to build coming out of this set, which is why you don’t see some of Ixalan’s awesome cards above. They’re reserved for these:

Pirates: Led by Admiral Beckett Brass and featuring Revel in Riches, most of the Pirates will come from Ixalan, but I’ll remind you that Rishadan Brigand, Rishadan Cutpurse, and Rishadan Footpad are all also Pirates. And here’s to Kukemssa Pirates, which I desperately want to make work.

Dinosaurs: Obviously, Gishath, Sun’s Avatar gets the lead here. There aren’t any legal Dinosaurs outside of Ixalan, but this might lead me to lobby the rest of the RC about making at least Old Fogey playable (and no, that’s not a precursor to anything about silver-bordered cards). The trick will be to make a deck that’s not immediately obvious.

B/W Vampire Clerics: Like Zombies, there are now enough Vampires to have more than one deck. I might drain a few from the Rakdos deck to make a spinoff by adding some Clerics, which I’ve been itching to do since I hung the original art of Rotlung Reanimator after we moved last year.

I’m excited about updating the deck collection with all the goodies from Ixalan. I’m even more excited about playing them. I’m especially looking forward to the sweet art on the foil versions of the double faced cards; the lands in particular look like they’ll be stunning.

Our normal features, Deck Without Comment and Idiotic Combo, will return after release season.

Check out our comprehensive Deck List Database for lists of all my decks:


Purple Hippos and Maro Sorcerers; Kresh Into the Red Zone; Halloween with Karador; Dreaming of Intet; You Did This to Yourself.



Heliod, God of Enchantments; Thassa, God of Merfolk; Erebos and the Halls Of The Dead; Forge of Purphoros; Nylea of the Woodland Realm; Karn Evil No. 9.


Lavinia Blinks; Obzedat, Ghost Killer; Aurelia Goes to War; Trostani and Her Angels; Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind; Zegana and a Dice Bag; Rakdos Reimagined; Glissa, Glissa; Ruric Thar and His Beastly Fight Club; Gisa and Geralf Together Forever.

Shards and Wedges

Adun’s Toolbox; Animar’s Swarm; Ikra and Kydele; Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky; Demons of Kaalia; Merieke’s Esper Dragons; Nath of the Value Leaf; Rith’s Tokens; The Mill-Meoplasm; The Altar of Thraximundar; The Threat of Yasova; Zombies of Tresserhorn.

Four Color

Yidris: Money for Nothing, Cards for Free; Saskia Unyielding; Breya Reshaped.


Children of a Greater God


Tana and Kydele; Kynaios and Tiro; Ikra and Kydele.


Animar Do-Over; Glissa Do-Over; Karador Do-Over; Karador Version 3; Karrthus Do-Over; Kresh Do-Over; Steam-Powered Merieke Do-Over; Lord of Tresserhorn Do-Over; Mimeoplasm Do-Over; Phelddagrif Do-Over; Rith Do-Over; Ruhan Do-Over.

If you’d like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987) which is just beginning the saga The Lost Cities of Nevinor, ask for an invitation to the Facebook group “Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers.”