Zaxara, the Exemplary

Published April 21st, 2020

Zaxara, the Exemplary, a 4 cost 2/3 legendary nightmare hydra with deathtouch. You can consider it a mana dork as it can tap for 2 mana of any one colour but the main draw seems to be the X spell token creation. Whenever you cast a spell with X in it’s mana cost you’ll get a 0/0 hydra token with X +1/+1 counters to match. This deck screams a lot of different building strategies but for the most interactive games we’re going to play some more entertaining spells with value to support it.

//Commander (1)

Zaxara, the Exemplary

//Lands (37)

Forest x3
Island x3
Swamp x3
Bloodstained Mire
Bojuka Bog
Cavern of Souls
Command Tower
Creeping Tar Pit
Drowned Catacomb
Flooded Grove
Flooded Strand
Hinterland Harbor
Marsh Flats
Misty Rainforest
Path of Ancestry
Polluted Delta
Reflecting Pool
Scalding Tarn
Sunken Ruins
Twilight Mire
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Woodland Cemetery
Breeding Pool
Tropical Island
Underground Sea
Watery Grave
Bayou
Overgrown Tomb
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

//Artifacts (9)

Arcane Signet
Chromatic Lantern
Commander’s Sphere
Crystal Shard
Mana Crypt
Mana Vault
Sensei’s Divining Top
Sol Ring
Lightning Greaves

//Enchantments (6)

Mana Bloom
Necromancy
Sylvan Library
Unbound Flourishing
Freed from the Real
Pemmin’s Aura

//Instants (13)

Brainstorm
Chord of Calling
Condescend
Cyclonic Rift
Fact or Fiction
Force of Will
Liliana’s Triumph
Mana Drain
Mystic Confluence
Pull from Tomorrow
Repeal
Thassa’s Intervention
Vampiric Tutor

//Sorceries (15)

Cultivate
Damnation
Demonic Tutor
Finale of Devastation
Flood of Tears
Maelstrom Pulse
Nature’s Lore
Ponder
Preordain
Seasons Past
Temporal Manipulation
Three Visits
Torment of Hailfire
Villainous Wealth
Kodama’s Reach

//Planeswalkers (4)

Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Liliana, Dreadhorde General
Nissa, Steward of Elements
Vivien, Champion of the Wilds

//Creatures (15)

Walking Ballista
Solemn Simulacrum
Stonecoil Serpent
Birds of Paradise
Bloom Tender
Deathrite Shaman
Eternal Witness
Snapcaster Mage
Trinket Mage
Hydroid Krasis
Genesis Hydra
Lotus Cobra
Steelbane Hydra
God-Eternal Rhonas
Sidisi, Undead Vizier

Synergies

Unbound Flourishing: Whether you have to force it in or you’ve been waiting for the chance this Modern Horizons mythic had a chance to shine in this deck. Doubling the X in permanent spells and copying spells with X in the cost it can pay for its use quite easily.

Vivien, Champion of the Wild: Because flashing in creatures is really handy to be able to do. She also lets you dig for creatures and grant vigilance and reach. Flashing in your Commander is fun, sinking a ton of mana and flashing in a huge hydra is hilarious.

Card Name: Unbound Flourishing. Mana Cost: {2}{G}. Card Oracle Text: Whenever you cast a permanent spell with a mana cost that contains {X}, double the value of X.Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell or activate an ability, if that spell's mana cost or that ability's activation cost contains {X}, copy that spell or ability. You may choose new targets for the copy.
Card Name: Vivien, Champion of the Wilds. Mana Cost: {2}{G}. Card Oracle Text: You may cast creature spells as though they had flash.+1: Until your next turn, up to one target creature gains vigilance and reach.−2: Look at the top three cards of your library. Exile one face down and put the rest on the bottom of your library in any order. For as long as it remains exiled, you may look at that card and you may cast it if it's a creature card.

Combos

Zarara, the Exemplary / Bloom Tender + Freed from the Real / Pemmin’s Aura: A quick infinite mana combo for the deck. Minimal requirements with available redundancy and one of the pieces is your Commander.

Eternal Witness + Crystal Shard + Temporal Manipulation: It takes so little effort and space to run this combo in multiple decks. Eternal Witness is a staple recursion creature and an extra turn could change a dangerous board into a game ending play. I suppose it’s the utility of Crystal Shard here that should be justified. There are multiple enter the battlefield effects that can be abused, the ability to force your opponents to keep mana up, and the ability to save a creatures especially the hydras are enough to me for it to have a spot here for me.

Card Name: Freed from the Real. Mana Cost: {2}{U}. Card Oracle Text: Enchant creature{U}: Tap enchanted creature.{U}: Untap enchanted creature.
Card Name: Bloom Tender. Mana Cost: {1}{G}. Card Oracle Text: {T}: For each color among permanents you control, add one mana of that color.. Power/Toughness: 1/1
Card Name: Pemmin's Aura. Mana Cost: {1}{U}{U}. Card Oracle Text: Enchant creature{U}: Untap enchanted creature.{U}: Enchanted creature gains flying until end of turn.{U}: Enchanted creature gains shroud until end of turn. (It can't be the target of spells or abilities.){1}: Enchanted creature gets +1/-1 or -1/+1 until end of turn.

X Spells

There are a number of spells you could run, but as always there is only so much room in the deck. I chose several pieces over others for balance sake along with casting cost and colour weight. It’s going to be a heavy focus on these spells so let’s take a look at what was kept in the deck and the reasoning.

Torment of Hailfire: Starting off strong with this impactful finisher spell. You’ll never see your opponents struggle more than when they have count their cards in hand, their non land permanents, and their life total all at once. The each opponent clause makes this even better in multiplayer but it’s a fun asymmetrical card that can lead to difficult decisions.

Villainous Wealth: An opposing Genesis Wave effect except with any non-land permanents. I’ve heard the nickname Nemesis Wave for it and it’s not exactly untrue. In a “why play my cards when I can play yours?” strategy this is a card that can easily turn the tides and disrupt your opponents. At worse you can also just exile an opponent’s’ library.

Nissa, Steward of Elements: The X cost planeswalker is pretty versatile in this deck. Whether early game for scry, ramp, or cheating in creatures from the top of your deck or late game for throwing a couple of 5/5 Flying Land Creatures at people.

Mana Bloom: An X enchantment that acts as mana storage and can return to your hand. Great synergy with Zaxara to create hydra tokens so much that you’ll be removing counters each turn just to get it back to your hand.

Finale of Devastation: Whether you’re just looking to pump the board or looking for a good body Finale is happy to oblige. The Finale cycle from. War of the Spark have incredible extra effects when you sink enough mana into it and and +X/+X and haste can cause some serious damage with all the hydra tokens.

Chord of Calling: While I wouldn’t recommend going for 0/0 hydra creatures this instant speed creature tutor does a lot of work and can get you out of some difficult situations with the right choices. Convoking to increase the CMC for a bigger hydra and getting Eternal Witness to bring it back to hand is also a neat play..

Pull from Tomorrow I picked this one over the other X draw spells completely due to its cost. Double blue may not seem too difficult but triple blue like Gadwick, the Wizened can leave you in an awkward situation. Everything’s fine when you’re ahead but when you’re behind just being able to dig a bit more and cast a bit easier helps a ton.

Thassa’s Intervention: At worse it’s 4 mana for 2 cards and a 3 mana Miscalculation. With more mana comes deeper digging for answers and with infinite mana you just take a couple of cards from your deck. That could be a win condition and something to protect it or just more draw power to overwhelm the board.

Hydroid Krasis: The mythic flying trample draw and life gain jellyfish hydra beast from the Simic combine. Actually I don’t think there’s much else to say that’s not self explainatory.

Genesis Hydra: Extra value on top of extra value the shuffle effect and the cast trigger are not something to underestimate. While it does have the chance to miss a nonland permanent in it’s reveal you can easily end up with a three for one with Zaxara.

Steelbane Hydra: I mean why not use the artifact and enchantment removal hydra, fits with the theme though it does cost a bit to play and use.

Stonecoil Serpent: Not a hydra but a reach, trample, protection from multicoloured snake. I am heavily questioning why some would run Endless One over this with it’s array of keywords. As an X cost creature it can be played at pretty much any point in the game as a solid creature option.

Walking Ballista: A huge mana sink and win condition. Even without infinite mana you can create a creature that can take out all sorts of targets and grow with any leftover mana you may have.

Card Name: Mana Bloom. Mana Cost: {X}{G}. Card Oracle Text: Mana Bloom enters the battlefield with X charge counters on it.Remove a charge counter from Mana Bloom: Add one mana of any color. Activate this ability only once each turn.At the beginning of your upkeep, if Mana Bloom has no charge counters on it, return it to its owner's hand.
Card Name: Finale of Devastation. Mana Cost: {X}{G}{G}. Card Oracle Text: Search your library and/or graveyard for a creature card with converted mana cost X or less and put it onto the battlefield. If you search your library this way, shuffle it. If X is 10 or more, creatures you control get +X/+X and gain haste until end of turn.
Card Name: Hydroid Krasis. Mana Cost: {X}{G}{U}. Card Oracle Text: When you cast this spell, you gain half X life and draw half X cards. Round down each time.Flying, trampleHydroid Krasis enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it.. Power/Toughness: 0/0

Summary

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There are some notable exclusions from this variation of Zaxara, Blue Sun’s Zenith or Stroke of Genius for example or Doubling Season for the hydra token synergies. It’s a very all in strategy when you require the Commander for most of your value and they’re already a big target. Balancing Zaxara was difficult, if the nightmare hydra sticks on board for a turn you’re ahead by plenty but functioning without your Commander is a design I focus most deck builds on.

There is no double there is high potential for Zaxara though whether as a hydra tribal commander, a Sultai combo deck, or just X spells and extra value. It doesn’t exactly synergize with the other legendary creatures from the Enhanced Evolution deck but it’s a fine Commander choice regardless of the contents of your deck.

Article by Cascade.Cascade

The editor-in-chief and creator of Command Beacon. They started playing Magic during the Scars of Mirrodin block and hasn’t been able to stop since.

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