The Kitchen Table #401 – Commanding Ixidor

Abe tells you how he built his Ixidor Commander deck with a focus on pushing the cool combo theme while also adding power cards other lists seemed to miss.

I recently broke apart my 100 combo decks that I built for a project. As I did, I began taking down a deck built around various morph creatures and things that worked with them. I paused to look at Ixidor for a few moments, and then inspiration hit me. I hadn’t built a real life Commander deck in a while, and here was Ixidor and a selection of good blue morph creatures just staring back at me.

So I pulled the cards for a Commander deck and then ordered an extra dose from the store here at StarCityGames.com. Once I’d finished that, I fleshed out my deck with some other cards and then called it a Commander deck.

Sometimes when I build a Commander deck, I do a few searches on various sites to see what others have done. On this occasion, I was a little disappointed with how similar all of the Ixidor decklists were. It seemed like every deck went in the same direction, and we’ll discuss that in more detail in a bit.

If you are going to build a deck around Ixidor, I think there are two crucial questions you have to answer before you add a single card to the deck.

How Many Morphs Is Enough?

The inherent value of a morph creature is simple. You get a creature that is unknown, and you can flip it to get an ability, flip trigger, or nice power and toughness to surprise an opponent. In order for this to work, you need to have the right number of morph cards. If you have too few, then people will start to suss out what any morph creature may be. How many morph creatures gives you the right density?

Is ten enough? Do you want twenty? And, of course, the obvious problem is that the more morphs you add to the deck, the weaker they become because you have to begin dipping into morphs that may not be the best creatures for multiplayer. How far do you go?

I felt that fifteen morphers would be my bottom foundation. That gives me enough of a ledge to ensure that any given morph creature could be anything. I would like more morphers than my minimum, but we’ll just have to see if we have enough value there.

Also, what about morph enablers? Do you play Dream Chisel or Backslide?

I have seen one deck with a bounce/replay the morph theme. It rolled Cloud Key and Dream Chisel to reduce the cost to play a morph creature, flipped it to get a useful trigger with Ixidor, and then bounced it with something like Crystal Shard to replay that.

To Wizard or Not to Wizard?

Ixidor is a Wizard. A few of the morphs are Wizards as well, plus Voidmage Prodigy sacrifices Wizards for an effect, so we have several routes to Wizardry. Don’t forget about Nameless One either as a morph with wizarding potential. Nameless One is cool.

Every single Ixidor deck I found online included a Wizard theme. They might differ on which specific Wizard cards they included, but they all emphasized Wizards in their morphs, other creatures, and spells.

A lot of these Wizard/Ixidor decks run janky Wizards, such as Disruptive Pitmage, in order to fit them into the theme. Common Wizard choices for the deck include Vedalken Aethermage, Patron Wizard, and Azami. The problem is that you have a lot of essential morphs that are nowhere near Wizard creature type, like Dermoplasm, Unblinking Bleb, and Weaver of Lies. If you shove in Wizards, are you going to able to find space for good bodies such as Duplicant or Solemn Simulacrum?

Some Wizard enablers include Sigil Tracer, Diviner’s Wand, Supreme Inquisitor, Sage of Fables, Aphetto Grafter, and Riptide Director. Do you run these, and do you also consider things like Inspired Sprite or Information Dealer? Do you add Wizards that are okay like Rayne, Academy Chancellor, or Arcanis, the Omnipotent over better blue creatures? Don’t forget that cards like Teferi, Memnarch, and Talrand are wizards. Trinket Mage and Treasure Mage are Wizzies, as are both Archaeomancer and Snapcaster Mage. Some nice Faeries are Wizards, such as Glen Elendra Archmage and Sower of Temptation.

Want to change all of your non-Wizards into one big happy Wizard family? Xenograft is running around.

Simply put, your Ixidor/Wizard deck will be a weak version of a real Azami-powered Wizard deck. Is that okay with you? In my opinion, the watered down creature base is not worth the small amount of synergy you create. You lose too much good creature quality by pushing Wizards really hard but still having a deck that is only part Wizard. As I mentioned above, by leaving them out, you can finish the deck with creatures such as Solemn, Duplicant, Consecrated Sphinx, and more.

After looking at my options, I decided to focus on pushing the cool combo theme with some interesting cards while also adding the power cards that other decklists seem to miss. The result is the deck you see below.

Commanding Ixidor

To start off, I included the Pickles combo to give you a backup way to combo off. The combo needs very little mana once you have flipped Brine Elemental, and with Ixidor and Backslide, you have two cheap ways of doing so. This works by unmorphing Vesuvan Shapeshifter as a Brine Elemental, which also nets you a trigger. That will force everyone but you to skip untapping. Then you just flip it back over during each of your upkeeps and unflip it again. You can repeat this over and over again to keep them from untapping for the rest of the game.

I added a few cards such as Frozen Aether to the pot. When it’s out, opposing stuff typically comes into play tapped, thus precluding folks from stockpiling mana over several turns by playing lands and then casting something to get out of the Pickles lock. Another card is Whispersilk Cloak, which will not only protect a key creature from targeted removal but can also allow a creature to slip through any defenses turn after turn to win. I had not originally intended to play Coral Trickster, but it fits here because it can unmorph to tap something untapped and thus to lock down more cards with Elemental. You can use the bounce and replay and reflip cards to use them over and over again while abusing the Shapeshifter as a Brine Elemental.

The Pickles combo is easily handled by enemies, so instead of focusing overly much on that, it’s just a backup built into the deck. My preference is to win with reusing flip triggers and the good blue that you can harness to keep up the win. To bounce a creature, we have several major options. Crystal Shard and Erratic Portal will tap and use a mana to bounce a creature. We can flip an Echo Tracer to do the same. We can play a creature, spend a mana to bounce any creature via Equilibrium, and, finally, we can play one creature, which bounces another that has to be our own through Cloudstone Curio. Most of these can be turned on a foe to bounce stuff as well, which can be particularly nasty if you’re abusing the Pickles combo of Brine Elemental and Vesuvan Shapeshifter.

Don’t forget that you can use this self-bounce engine for repeating some of the useful enter the battlefield (ETB) triggers we have on creatures. Another powerful addition to the deck is Tidespout Tyrant. It’s included to bounce opposing stuff more than to bounce my own, but it’s a nice addition to the deck.

Since one way we can keep ourselves going is by bouncing opposing stuff, we also have Cyclonic Rift and Inundation. I think both will prove very handy to our needs, especially after we have established a Pickles combo and prevented them from untapping their cool lands. You can swing for a lot of damage on a naked board.

Before we bounce something to our own hands, make sure to tap and use it with a Tradewind Rider or Opposition! Both of these assist the Pickles combo. Opposition will lock down artifacts, creatures, or lands. Rider will bounce stuff for no mana down on the effect. Both can use a creature before it jumps back into our hands.

I wanted to include a small number of emergency counters. My first choice was Cryptic Command because it can counter and bounce. We can counter/bounce to save one of our dudes, to repeat a flip trigger, or even to bounce an opposing creature for tempo or protection. We can use it to tap stuff for the Pickles combo. It’s a nasty card in this deck. After that, Lost in the Mist was a nice addition because it doesn’t force me to bounce my own creature like Familiar’s Ruse does. Dismiss draws a card to replace itself, Desertion can take a creature or artifact countered and give it to me, and Spelljack will procure anything for me. Finally, Draining Whelk is a nice way to get a counter and a beater in one card.

Several of the morph creatures in the deck have useful triggers. Echo Tracer bounces, Coral Trickster taps, and we’ve mentioned Elemental and Shapeshifter too. Willbender will flip to bounce an ability or spell’s target to another target of our choice and is very powerful. Voidmage Apprentice will flip to counter a spell of any sort. Master of the Veil and Weaver of Lies will flip and turn flipped creatures back over to reuse a flip trigger. Creatures like Riptide Survivor and Fathom Seer will flip for cards.

Dermoplasm will flip and jump to my hand for another morph creature to hit the board. The Quanar will flip to fork something, and the Crab will flip to trade one of my creatures with one of yours (and I might bounce my creature right afterwards!). Shaper Parasite can kill opposing creatures, and if we reuse the trigger a few times in one turn, it might kill something larger. Don’t forget the power of Unblinking Bleb and Aphetto Runecaster since their abilities trigger every time this deck flips a card over.

With a lot of self-bounce in the deck anyway, I decided to emphasize creatures that have enters the battlefield (ETB) triggers that can be used again and again. Solemn Simulacrum would love to be bounced and replayed! I tossed in Duplicant, Mulldrifter, Diluvian Primordial, Archaeomancer, and Gilded Drake. To that list I added some nasty good blue creatures, such as Teferi and Consecrated Sphinx. Sun Quan, Lord of Wu will give the whole team horsemanship, allowing them to smash face post-Pickles if you are unable to find or play your mass bounce or tapping effects. Deadeye Navigator was added for the reuse of these abilities as well.

The deck was mostly done. I had my engines: Equilibrium, Cloud Key, Dream Chisel, Heartstone, Cloudstone Curio, Tradewind Rider, Opposition, Tidespout Tyrant, and more. I also had Brine Elemental, Vesuvan Shapeshifter, Frozen Aether, Coral Trickster, Sun Quan, Whispersilk Cloak, and others. Speaking of Heartstone, after checking a few decklists online, I was surprised that Heartstone was missing. It seems to make Ixidor’s ability sick, so I added it.

With the deck almost done, I added a few cards to round it out. In went Rhystic Study. Sol Ring and Thran Dynamo were tossed in. I wanted flash, so Vedalken Orrery and Leyline of Anticipation were included because they inject this deck with awesome. Lightning Greaves gives me another way to protect a crucial creature from targeted removal. Mindslaver gives me a different combo since I knew some of the lands I was going to add. Fabricate can Tutor for any artifact in the deck, and Recurring Insight will draw a ton of cards en masse.

As I moved to the lands, I had already included Zoetic Cavern in my decklist. I also had an extra Maze of Ith not doing anything. I added Academy Ruins to recur a powerful artifact from the deck (and that means Mindslaver— every deck with an Academy Ruins should try to fit in a ‘Slaver—but the ‘Slaver fits here too because you can take someone’s turn, tap all of their stuff, and then keep it locked with the Pickles). I needed Riptide Laboratory as well, so it was tossed in.

Then I moved to fleshing out my deck with a few nonbasics. Strip Mine and Wasteland were added to handle nasty offending lands. Temple of the False God is nice in a mana-guzzling deck such as this. Winding Canyons is always useful and brings my flash-enabler count to four (Teferi, Leyline, Canyons, Orrery). Urza’s Factory can make a team over time and is a nice thing to do with extra mana when people kill or wipe the board with their annoying anti-Ixidor cards.

Since this deck cannot recur a key creature, always keep self-bounce or counters available to save it if targeted with removal. Only use counters to save your stuff unless you are about to lose the game. As a general rule, don’t waste a counter on an opposing permanent unless you are recurring Draining Whelk, flipping over Voidmage Apprentice, and then reusing it again or something. Stay far away from countering just to be spiteful. Keep your eyes on the target.

And enjoy your Ixidor shenanigans!

Until later,
Abe Sargent