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Commander Top 10: Xyris, The Writhing Storm

Why did it have to be Snakes? Because Xyris, the Writhing Storm is fun in Commander! Bennie Smith shares his latest 100-card build.

Xyris, the Writhing Storm
Xyris, the Writhing Storm, illustrated by Filip Burburan

What a wild ride it’s been since the release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths and Commander 2020. I’ve been brewing up new decks left and right, so please check out my archives if you’re looking for some other inspiration.  But before you do, I presume you’re hear because you’re interested in one of the new Temur commanders: Xyris, the Writhing Storm!

I mean, who knew what we were really missing in Magic is a Snake Leviathan with flying that creates bunches of 1/1 Snake tokens?  But now that we know it, what do we do with this knowledge?

From what I’ve seen, most people are pushing it towards Nekusar, the Mindrazer’s style, with a bunch of “Wheel” effects from the Izzet combination but swapping out black for the turbo-charged power of green. 

And that’s fine, if you just want to apply a shiny new coat of paint to your favorite old standby.  But me, I saw this card and I immediately thought about Indiana Jones.

Yep, I’m talking about stoking Ophidiophobia in your opponents with Snake tribal!  Kamigawa block brought some really cool green legendary Snakes, but Xyris expands our color palette into red and blue, which gives us access to some other Snakes we wouldn’t be able to play in a mono-green deck, as well as lots of useful spells from the Izzet guild. 

Let’s get slithering!

1. Kindred Discovery

The first order of business is bringing in some awesome tribal support cards, and since we have access to blue, we get one of the best tribal cards ever printed: Kindred Discovery!  Tribal decks often require overextending to the battlefield to take advantage of the tribal synergies, so after a few battlefield sweepers they can run out of gas.  Kindred Discovery coupled with Xyris’s own combat damage trigger will ensure a steady supply of gas to keep on the pressure.

Stoneforge Mastery is perfect here once Xyris is online and attacking; equip Xyris to make it bigger from other Snakes you control, so it deals more damage, the opponent draws more cards and you make more Snakes.  Cryptic Gateway doesn’t usually make the cut in my other tribal decks, but it’s perfect in this one: thanks to making extra Snakes with Xyris triggers and drawing extra cards, it’s easy to tap two 1/1 Snake tokens to drop a legendary Snake onto the battlefield.

2. Seshiro the Anointed

Speaking of legendary Snakes, Seshiro the Anointed is the best of the bunch.  Other Snakes you control get +2/+2, which makes all those token creatures quite scary, and whenever any of them deal combat damage to a player you get to draw another card.  The Snake parade never ends!

Seshiro was quite prolific, and we’ll want to include a lot of his family in the mix. One legendary Snake I’m choosing not to add here is Shisato, Whispering Hunter.

There’s no doubt that Shisato has a very powerful effect if he can deal combat damage to a player, and Xyris can ensure a steady stream of tokens to feed to the cannibalistic hunter.  But locking another player out of having an untap step is very much not how I want to play Commander, though if your play group tolerates such things, feel free to add it in!

3. Kaseto, Orochi Archmage

Other than the Kamigawa legends, there aren’t too many cards that care specifically about Snakes, but since we have access to blue, we definitely want Kaseto, Orochi Archmage!  If none of your opponents wants to take a hit from Xyris so they can draw cards, you can use Kaseto to make it unblockable and hit for two more damage—two more cards, and two more Snakes! 

Sosuke’s Summons is another great inclusion to Snake tribal to generate even more Snake tokens, and we have plenty of nontoken Snakes to keep bringing it back to our hand.

4. Ohran Frostfang

So, what about other Snakes for our deck?  Well, the first one that comes to mind is Ohran Frostfang!  This incredible card is nearly a must-include in any green deck that has a fair number of creatures, but in this deck where we’re generating a ton of 1/1 Snake token creatures, we can attack our opponents ruthlessly, because who wants to chump block a 1/1 Snake token and have their blocker die?

There are a surprisingly number of other big, scary Snakes we can add to the deck.  Lorescale Coatl starts small but is likely to get gigantic quickly in this deck.  Voracious Cobra isn’t large in stats, but the combination of first strike and its triggered ability means it’ll likely kill anything it blocks and survive.

Ramunap Hydra is a card I love but have never really found a home where it was worth a four-mana card slot, but this deck seems like a perfect home for it.  There are so many ways in a Snake tribal deck to boost its power and toughness, which makes its combination of vigilance, reach, and trample into a trifecta of battlefield terror.  Plus, since we’re three colors, the chance of getting a boost from random Desert cards increases!

5. Mystic Snake

There are also a bunch of smaller Snake cards that perform great utility, and Mystic Snake is one of the best!  Counter target spell – any spell – and leave a Snake behind?  Heck yeah!  You’re going to feel especially good countering a Wrath of God or some other battlefield sweeper with Mystic Snake.

Sakura-Tribe Scout is going to do serious work in a deck that’s drawing so many extra cards, playing extra lands which will let you cast more of the cards you draw.

6. Khorvath’s Fury

Speaking of card draw, we probably should at least play a few “Wheel” effects. One that I really like is Khorvath’s Fury, since you can customize it with friend or foe if you don’t necessarily want one or more players to draw more cards and can instead deal damage.  If you’ve done something crazy and made an opponent draw a bunch of cards with an attack from Xyris, you can even use Khorvath’s Fury to finish them off!

I’m including other cards to help us draw more gas in case our opponents have been keeping Xyris in check:

7. Cryptolith Rite

Mana ramp is a boring but necessarily part of any Commander deck, but one card in particular is Top 10-worthy: Cryptolith Rite!  This enchantment gives all your creatures the ability to tap for mana, and if you’re generating a ton of Snake tokens with Xyris, that can translate into a bunch of extra mana.

Since we are a green deck, we’ve got access to a smorgasbord of the best in class:

8. Kessig Wolf Run

I mentioned in the opening paragraphs how nice it is to have access to blue and red in our Snake tribal deck, and one card that I’m incredibly stoked about is Kessig Wolf Run.  Xyris’s power is just three with no buffs, but with enough mana (i.e. Cryptolith Rite) we can increase that power with Kessig Wolf Run and give it trample, which means even more cards drawn and even more Snakes. The screams you’re hearing are Indiana Jones’s nightmares.

Rhythm of the Wild is another great card to scoop up thanks to our extra colors, letting us cast our creature spells unmolested by most counterspells and giving them riot. 

Opposition… well, let’s just say Opposition will make our opponents very, very sad the more Snake tokens we generate. And since Opposition is what’s tapping the creature to activate, you can make use of newly created Snakes right away.

9. Alchemist’s Refuge

Alchemist’s Refuge is another fantastic card we get to add to a Temur deck, and since we’re tribal it’s nice to be able to cast some Snake cards at the end of an opponent’s turn to help sidestep sorcery-speed sweeper spells.

I’m including a fair number of other ways to interact with our opponent, from counterspells like Arcane Denial, to graveyard removal like Scavenger Grounds—which is a Desert for our Ramunap Hydra!

10. Blasphemous Act

If we were a mono-green or Simic Snake tribal deck we might have a tough time sweeping the battlefield if things get out of control on our opponents’ side of the table, but since we’ve got red we’ve got Blasphemous Act to clean up an overly cluttered battlefield. 

I’m also including plenty of other removal spells to take care of business:

Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:

Xyris, the Writhing Storm
Bennie Smith
0th Place at Test deck on 06-07-2020
Commander


What do you think?  Are there any cards I’ve overlooked?  If you see any new cards from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths or Commander 2020 that should find a home here, let me know!

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and get conversations started about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do a deckbuilding stream every Monday evening, and pepper in some other Commander-related streams when I can.  If you can join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.

By the way, if you’re reading this as it goes live Saturday, June 6th, be sure to stop by my Twitch channel—I’m going to be playing CommandFest Online and streaming my Commander adventures, so come on by and say hello in the chat!

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

Visit my Decklist Database to see my decklists and the articles where they appeared!

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