Commander Top 10: Codie, Vociferous Codex

Codie, Vociferous Codex has a steep drawback in Commander but a huge potential payoff. How did Bennie Smith build around the Strixhaven book?

Strixhaven has so many cool and unique legends, I’m going to really enjoy all this new deckbuilding space to explore.  A prime example is my topic this week — Codie, Vociferous Codex!

Codie, Vociferous Codex

What’s fascinating about Codie is that restriction right there at the top of the text box: you can’t cast permanent spells.  Permanent spells are a huge swath of the best spells in Commander!  Codie reminds me of another legendary card printed a few years back — Nikya of the Old Ways.

Nikya of the Old Ways

Nikya says you can’t cast noncreature spells, which is also a pretty heft restriction, but luckily for Nikya decks there are plenty of amazing creatures with abilities that often double as spells attached to a body. For the cost of building your deck around the restriction imposed by your commander, you get to double your mana, which is a pretty amazing payoff.

Codie’s drawback is arguably much harsher, cutting off playing artifacts, enchantments, planeswalker and creatures from all five colors of Magic.  So, what’s the payoff?  Well, you tap Codie and pay four generic mana to get all five colors of mana, and when you cast your next spell this turn, exile cards from the top of your library until you exile an instant or sorcery card with lesser mana value. Until end of turn you may cast that card without paying its mana cost. Basically, you get a delayed-blast cascade for your one spell.

There’s another restriction that’s implied here too: basically, you’re going to want to play active spells here because if you “cascade” into a counterspell or something like Heroic Intervention, there might not be any use for it. If you’re going to jump through all the hoops and restrictions to utilize Codie, you want to make sure each time you activate it the spell will be a hit.

Now let’s be clear about something — you can certainly build a Codie deck with permanent spells in it, assuming that there will be times when Codie will be destroyed and hanging out in the command zone. That will sometimes work out for you.  Me? I’m not interested in that! If I’m going to choose a commander that says “You can’t cast permanent spells.” then I’m not going to have any permanent spells in my deck (with a few notable exceptions, thanks to Strixhaven). I’d rather just fully embrace the “all instants/sorceries all the time” deckbuilding challenge.

Okay?  Okay! Let’s flip through some spellbook pages!

1. Approach of the Second Sun

Approach of the Second Sun

If I’m going to be playing all instants and sorceries, I want to make sure I have a few high-impact ones that can help finish out a long game, and Approach of the Second Sun’s “you win the game” fits the bill perfectly (the seven lifegain will help too). I anticipate having some ways to retrieve instants and sorceries from my graveyard so if this gets countered, it’ll come up again.  Just make sure once you’ve cast it and put it seventh from the top of your library you don’t accidentally shuffle Approach to the bottom of your library with a Codie activation. At seven mana, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to “cascade” into it, but with some library manipulation, you might be able to clear some cards off the top of your library so that the Approach returns much sooner.

Beacon of Immortality Rise from the Tides Nexus of Fate

Without a bunch of creature cards to soak up attackers, I looked for ways to gain life here and there, and Beacon of Immortality can really help out if you haven’t gotten too low on life. Rise from the Tides is a fantastic late-game spell here with the potential to win the game with a horde of Zombies. Instants and sorceries that create creature tokens are a great way to work around the restrictions that Codie presents.

Everyone hates playing against Nexus of Fate, but I think we’re justified playing it in this sort of deck. We’re going to need to take an extra turn here and there to keep up with everyone else casting all sort of permanent spells. As a nice bonus for our deck, we only need six mana to cast Nexus thanks to Codie’s activation turning four mana into five.

2. Jadzi, Oracle of Arcavios

Jadzi, Oracle of Arcavios Journey to the Oracle

I said above that I would build this deck with zero other permanent spells besides Codie, but Strixhaven presents us with a nice loophole: modal DFCs that are spells on the backside. If Codie has been shelved in the command zone, we can freely cast the front side and get a nifty creature on the battlefield, but if Codie is out there, we can cast the backside spell instead. Of the three I put in this deck, there’s no doubt Jadzi is the most powerful of the bunch, so let’s start off by talking about the sorcery side — Journey to the Oracle. With enough card draw in the deck, odds are decent that you will find yourself with one or two extra lands in your hand by the time you want to cast Journey to the Oracle that you can play to get up to eight or more lands so as to get back Journey and have enough mana to cast Jadzi at some point when Codie has been shelved. Jadzi makes a pretty good backup copy to Codie with its magecraft trigger, either casting an extra instant or sorcery for one generic mana or ramping you a land. 

Selfless Glyphweaver Wandering Archaic

Selfless Glyphweaver is a great creature to have on the battlefield when you re-cast Codie, offering protection for your commander and any token creatures you may have with a one-shot activation giving indestructibility. The backside sorcery Deadly Vanity might be a little difficult to cast but Codie can wash four nonblack mana to give you a black mana you can use to get a third of the way there, and the upside is a battlefield sweeper that keeps Codie untouched by the carnage.

Wandering Archaic is my pick for the best Commander card in Strixhaven and I’m going to be putting it in a lot of decks!  As a colorless card it can fit just about anywhere, and it makes your opponents choose whether to pay two generic mana extra for their instant or sorcery spells or let you copy the spell. You can certainly use this politically by offering to destroy someone else’s permanent if someone needs to cast something like Terminate (assuming they’re not targeting something of yours of course). The sorcery side Explore the Vastlands is a spell that theoretically helps everyone, but unless they’re playing a deck heavy with instants and sorceries, it’s probably not going to help them quite as much as it’ll help you.

3. Mizzix’s Mastery

Mizzix's Mastery

There are a lot of nifty instants and sorceries that care about you playing a lot of instants and sorceries and one of the best ones is Mizzix’s Mastery.  This card does a lot of heavy lifting in this deck; at its basic level, you cast it with Codie’s ability to “cascade” a spell from your library while copying a spell you exile from your graveyard. If you can muster up the triple red mana for the overload ability, things will truly get wild if your graveyard has been well-stocked!

I’ve got a fair number of other spells that care about instant and sorcery spells:

Call to Mind Experimental Overload Practical Research Creative Technique Immolating Gyre Volcanic Vision

I love that Immolating Gyre and Volcanic Vision give you some extra creature destruction capability that leaves little Codie intact. I mean, who wants to burn books after all?

4. Spitting Image

Spitting Image

One way to get around the restriction of not casting permanent spells is to play instant or sorcery spells that create creature tokens, and one of the most powerful options here is Spitting Image. Not only does this let you copy the most powerful creature on the battlefield once, but it also lets you keep doing it from graveyard with the retrace ability. This ensures that you’ll always have a spell you can cast when you activate Codie’s ability, and at six mana, the “cascade” spell can potentially be quite big, up to five mana.

Here are other spells that create creature tokens to keep Codie company:

Crashing Footfalls Call the Coppercoats Pulse of the Tangle Advent of the Wurm Rite of Replication Trumpeting Herd

Suspend spells like Crashing Footfalls are nice ways to squeeze value out of Codie if you need to cast a one-mana spell. Getting two 4/4 Rhinos with trample seems like a good bonus!

5. Inspiring Refrain

Inspiring Refrain

I really like this new take on the recurring suspend sorceries from Future Sight (Arc Blade, Chronomantic Escape), especially since it draws you two cards each time it fires off. This is another way to know you’ll have a spell to cast to trigger off Codie’s ability even if you don’t have one in your hand: when the upkeep trigger to take the last time counter off this spell in exile goes on the stack, go ahead and activate Codie, and then cast Inspiring Refrain. No one says you have to use Codie’s mana to cast the spell — Codie only cares that you cast a spell! 

I crammed in a bunch of other card-drawing spells because they’re always going to be nice hits from Codie’s ability:

Ancestral Vision Impulse Night's Whisper Read the Bones Oona's Grace Valakut Awakening Harmonize Healing Technique

6. Duneblast


Creature removal is going to be vitally important for a deck that isn’t going to have a lot of permanents to wave off attackers, and I particularly like finding sweepers that leave Codie intact.  Duneblast certainly fits the bill!  Duneblast works particularly well with Codie’s ability — if you “cascade” into a spell that creates a creature token, you can hold off casting it until after Duneblast has resolved.

I found room for all of these high-quality creature removal spells:

Swords to Plowshares Terminate Reality Shift Crackling Doom Ravenform Deadly Rollick Perplexing Test Time Wipe Promise of Loyalty Blasphemous Act

7. Lim-Dûl’s Vault

Lim-Dul's Vault

I wanted to find a few instant or sorcery spells that would let me manipulate the top of my deck to better manage Codie activations in clutch situations, and Lim-Dûl’s Vault is incredible in this regard! For just two mana at instant speed, you get to look at the top five cards of your library, and if those five cards don’t contain the card or cards you’re looking for, for just one life you can put those five on the bottom of your library and keep going. Let’s do some quick math: for fifteen life you could dig 75 cards deep into your library!  So yeah, with a little life you can set up a sweet Codie activation with Lim-Dûl’s Vault!

Here are a few other slightly less potent but very useful ways to set up the top of your library:

Brainstorm Ponder Serum Visions

8. Westvale Abbey

Westvale Abbey

Lands offer another way to get a permanent-based effect that could be particularly useful in a Codie deck, but I wanted to be careful not to run too many lands that didn’t tap for colored mana due to the five-color nature of the deck (though Codie does let you fix your mana in a lot of cases). I did find a few that I just had to add to the deck, including Westvale Abbey.  This land has a five-mana activation, which is exactly the amount of mana Codie produces from the four-mana activation. Paying one life to create a 1/1 creature token can often make a huge difference if you need to chump block some huge creature without evasion, but the real dream is to sacrifice five token creatures you may have produced to transform Westvale Abbey into Ormendahl, Profane Prince!

Alchemist's Refuge Minamo, School at Water's Edge Castle Vantress

I really like having Alchemist’s Refuge here since it will let us cast sorcery spells at instant speed and that can be big game in certain circumstances.

9. Urban Evolution

Urban Evolution

A five-color deck has access to green mana ramp spells, so I’ve got many of the usual suspects here, but one that I’m particularly excited about is Urban Evolution since it draws us three mana while providing an additional land drop for the turn. Cast Codie on Turn 3, activate Codie on Turn 4, and you’ll have exactly enough mana to cast Urban Evolution and get a bonus spell to “cascade” into. It’s not super-splashy, but it’s just good nuts-and-bolts Magic, right?

Farseek Three Visits Nature's Lore Cultivate Kodama's Reach

10. Back to Nature

Back to Nature

I’ll round the deck out with other removal spell options.  Five colors give us access to the best the format has to offer, but with Codie’s deckbuilding restriction we’re able to run one of the most powerful options around — Back to Nature!  It’s rarely played in Commander due to its symmetrical effect, but if you don’t have any enchantments of your own in the deck, you just can’t beat Back to Nature; for just two mana at instant speed, destroy all enchantments. There are so many potent enchantments that are commonly played that we want to get rid of: Rhystic Study, Smothering Tithe, Mystic Remora, Mirari’s Wake, Guardian Project, Aura Shards, Doubling Season.  Destroy them all!

Vandalblast Despark Hull Breach Return to Nature Aura Mutation Cyclonic Rift Dismantling Wave

Okay, so here’s how our spellbook ended up being written:

Codie, Vociferous Codex
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 04-17-2021
Magic Card Back

Here’s how the deck looks graphically, thanks to our friends at Archidekt:

What do you think?  Are there any cards I’ve overlooked?  If you see any new cards from Strixhaven or Commander 2021 that should find a home here, let me know! 

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And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

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