My personal favorite Magic variant is a format called Commander. Commander is a flavorful and incredibly fun format, where you build a deck focused around a single legendary creature, called your Commander. There are some restrictions and rules changes, but that is not the point of my article this week. If you unfamiliar with the rules of Commander, check out this website. Today, I will be writing about one of personal favorite Commander decks of the moment decks of the moment, on built around a badass kraken from the Worldwake expansion called Wrexial, The Risen Deep. For this article, I’ll be going through the deck and explaining what makes it work, and why I enjoy playing it so much.
We’ll start with the Commander, a legend known as Wrexial, The Risen Deep:
The wonderful evasion, amazing ability when he hits a player and badass art are the three main reasons someone would want to play a Wrexial Commander deck.
Wrexial first two abilities, Islandwalk and Swampwalk, make him an evasive menace to your opponents. In any particular game of Commander, it is almost guaranteed that someone at the table is playing swamps or islands, considering that blue and black tend to be the most powerful colors in Commander. This means that your massive general can hit them without trouble. And when he hits, you get to steal an instant or sorcery out of your opponent’s graveyard, an ability with incredible potential. Finally, there’s his amazing art:
The superlative art on this card really helps to sell it. This guy is a massive sea monster straight out of the Cthulhu Mythos, who has been woken by the darkest of magics to wreak havoc upon the world from which he retreated so long ago.
In addition to the above factors, Wrexial’s stats (5/8) also mean that he has supreme survivability in combat and against Red decks. Wrexial makes a fine blocker, and if your opponent has no Islands or Swamps across which to walk, he still has a great chance of surviving combat.
So what kind of deck does Wrexial like to lead? With his abilities, it is in our best interest that everyone have a well-stocked graveyard from which to steal instants and sorceries. To this end, my build focuses on forcing people to either mill (put from the top of their library into their graveyard) or discard their cards, so that Wrexial can steal them. Fortunately for us, Blue and Black are the best possible colors for this kind of trickery. For the purposes of this article, I shall be staying within the cheap end of the card pool.
In case you were curious, you can find the Wrexial decklist that I use myself here.
Attacking the Hand: Discard
We’ll start the decklist with some cards that force all of your opponents to discard cards, depriving them of options while throwing cards into their graveyards for you to steal. A minor warning before I begin listing cards: making people discard their cards is a surefire way to draw their hate, so you must always be prepared to be attacked by other players in retaliation. However, by forcing your opponents to discard their cards, you are also making it harder for them to hit you back. With that note taken care of, here are some good discard spells you may want to consider:
These cards provide great utility, filling your opponents’ graveyards, while at the same time depriving them of cards with which to retaliate. Unnerve is a great 4th turn shocker, allowing you to do some damage to your opponents’ hands and give you targets for your creature reanimation and spell recursion I’ll be discussing later. Syphon Mind serves much the same function, while also refilling your hand. If played early in most multiplayer games, this card can net you 3-5 extra cards, a real bargain. Whispering Madness is an incredibly fun card, and it is an invaluable tool for stocking graveyards, especially if you can encode it onto an unblockable creature, like say Wrexial or one of the others I ‘ll be discussing later. Finally, there’s Cabal Conditioning. Conditioning is an absolutely devastating haymaker, forcing your opponents to discard a large portion of their hand. Usually, you would be able to cast this to make each person discard 5 or more cards from their hands, resulting in a massive shift in your favor as you empty or cripple your opponents’ hands. You may also want to consider Scythe Specter, who can hit every turn and make every opponent discard, while also hitting one or more of them for a few points of damage. Words of Waste is also worth consideration, given its repeatable nature and ability to hit all opponents.
Wit’s End is basically a targeted Cabal Conditioning, but even more extreme. I include this card as a way to completely mess with someone’s game plan. In the later stages of the game, hitting the person with the largest hand with this card can be exactly what the table needed. Often, you’ll see some game-winning card among those discarded, since the person who still has the largest hand a good portion of the way into the game is building something, assuming they aren’t mana-starved. Also, beware whoever is shuffling their deck the most, since they’re probably also up to no good. Mind Shatter fills a very similar role, but it also has some good utility early game. Never underestimate the power of random discard on a schemer.
Attacking the Deck: Milling
The second way to get your opponents cards into their graveyard is through milling. There are several ways to accomplish this, but two of the best or both new and cheap: Consuming Aberration and Mind Grind. These Dimir cards from Gatecrash pull some real weight in milling your opponents out. The “mill until you hit a land” ability (commonly known as “Grind”) can be extremely powerful, especially against opposing ramp decks that take all of the land cards and put them onto the library. Consuming Aberration, in particular, is a superstar in this deck. When it is first cast, the Aberration tends to pretty weak. However, it just grows exponentially with each passing spell you play. When using Diabolic Tutor or one of its equivalents, Consuming Aberration should be one of your first targets to grab.
In addition to these amazing mass-mill effects, you’ll also want to run some targeted mill. My personal favorite recommendation is Trepanation Blade, an Equipment from Innistrad mills your target and makes your creature potentially a lot larger at the same time. It is incredibly powerful on Wrexial, as well, allowing your nigh unblockable commander to hit a lot harder, allowing you to potentially kill people with general damage (21 or more combat damage from one commander instantly kills someone). Another fun prospect is Traumatize, which will instantly stock someone’s graveyard chock full of fun things for you to steal. A few other, less powerful, spells for milling you may consider could be Nemesis of Reason, Chill of Foreboding, Increasing Confusion, Geralf’s Mindcrusher, and Keening Stone.
Rise from Your Grave: Stealing Dead Creatures
Stealing the creatures out of your opponents’ graveyards is on of the most fun things to do with this deck in my experience. Between milling your opponents, making them discard, and the wear and tear of a normal Commander game, with the frequent board wipes and targeted destruction flying back and forth, you should have many targets to choose from for these effects. Sepulchral Primordial, pictured above, is one of the more powerful of these effects, hitting all of your opponents’ graveyards, netting you 3-5 of the best creatures for one card. Another card that should be easy to get your hands on is Rise from the Grave, an uncommon sorcery from M13 that can resurrect out of a graveyard any creature you need. Some other cards that are a bit harder to find but are still worth the effort to include are Beacon of Unrest, Reanimate, Body Double, and Grimoire of the Dead, all of which can be found for fairly cheap from online shops such as BidWicket.com, my personal favorite card shop.
Blast from the Past: Stealing Instants and Sorceries from Graveyards
There are a lot less possibilities in this category than there are in the stealing creatures category, but this deficiency is offset by the fact that we have constant access to Wrexial in the command zone for a repeatable source of stealing spells. However, it’s always good to have more options, and Diluvian Primordial gives you a load of them, allowing you to take the best of the spells your opponent’s have and giving you a decently sized flyer to boot. Other spells you may want to consider are Spelltwine and Memory Plunder, both of which can grab you a powerful spell when it’s desperately needed.
Creatures That Like Big Graveyards
These cards will really be able to lay the beatdown on your opponents in the late game, when everyone has begun to exhaust their resources and the graveyards are well stocked from your milling and discarding antics and the general attrition of a long game of Magic. Consuming Aberration is another creature in this category, pulling double duty as a ginormous creature and wonderful source of mass mill.
For these creatures (and Wrexial), you’ll want to ensure that they hit your targets. There are two great ways to see this accomplished: unblockability and trample. Equipment such as O-Naginata, Loxodon Warhammer, Whispersilk Cloak, and Trailblazer’s Boots are all reusable, functional ways to make sure your damage gets through to your target. Additionally, you may want to consider Rogue’s Passage and Artful Dodge as ways to sneak through your damage. Usually, one hit from one of your giant, graveyard-fueled monsters is all it takes to eliminate a player from the game and bring you one step closer to victory.
With this emphasis on unblockability, the Cipher spells from Gatecrash, such as Whispering Madness and Stolen Identity, can really make a splash here, so make sure to go check them out.
And the Rest: Generic Utility Cards
I’ve finished pointing out all of the cards that work specifically with Wrexial and his graveyard-based shenanigans. After including any or all of the cards I just pointed out, you’ll still have a lot of space left over to fill out your 99 card deck. Since many of the generic utility categories I’ll be pointing out are incredibly broad, I’ll only be including a few example cards for each category of card I’ll be discussing.
Working in Blue and Black, there are many staple effects that wouldn’t hurt you in the least to include. I’m thinking here about creature kill spells (Doom Blade, Murder, and their ilk), counterspells (like Counterspell, Cancel, etc.), card draw (Sign in Blood, Consult the Necrosages, Recurring Insight, and their cousins), and mana artifacts like Dimir Keyrune or Darksteel Ingot. As for the mana base, I highly recommend using 40 lands to guard against mana starvation. You can use all basic lands and be just fine, but there are many lands that produce both Blue and Black, as well as some good utility lands. In particular, I recommend that you find a Creeping Tar Pit for that little bit of extra unblockable damage on top of some good mana-fixing.
There you go, a perfectly serviceable skeleton for your very own Wrexial Commander deck built on a budget. I’ve been using Wrexial quite a bit recently, and have gotten some good results, all for a small investment of money. As for my next article, I’m always open for any Magic-related suggestions for articles, especially articles about Commander, so feel free to email with feedback, article ideas, or deckbuilding/strategy questions at JakePPetersen@gmail.com.