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Commander / EDH BUG (Sultai) Counters Hydra Tokens

MTGBurgeoning


We're laying down the framework for a Zaxara, the Exemplary EDH/Commander deck focusing on spells!

The following ten cards are considered the core of this deck. Here is an MTG Burgeoning YouTube video discussing the first ten spells added to the deck:

  1. Unbound Flourishing: Zaxara, the Exemplary and Unbound Flourishing were made for each other. MADE. FOR. EACH. OTHER. Whenever we cast a permanent spell with a mana cost that contains , double the value of X. Whenever we cast an instant or sorcery spell or activate an ability, if that spell's mana cost or that ability's activation cost contains , we copy that spell or ability and we may choose new targets for the copy. Mind-blowing interactions between these cards. Imagine if Doubling Season is also on the battlefield and under our control!

  2. Doubling Season: If half of Doubling Season is strong enough to be included in this deck, then the whole Doubling Season is strong enough too! Doubling Season allows us to double the number of +1 +1 counters placed on our creatures IN ADDITION to doubling the number of creature tokens created under our control. With Zaxara, the Exemplary on the battlefield and under our control, Doubling Season turns any spell into two green hydra creature tokens that are x2/x2.

  3. Branching Evolution: This enchantment from Jumpstart is half Doubling Season and a more enduring version of Corpsejack Menace. If one or more +1/+1 counters would be put on a creature we control, twice that many +1/+1 counters are put on that creature instead. Creating tokens by casting spells in the presence of our General/Commander will yield hydra creature tokens that are twice the size of .

  4. Primeval Bounty: This enchantment is going to do so much work for us in this deck. It has three viable modes, all of which we will benefit from greatly. Whenever we cast a creature spell, we create a 3/3 green beast creature token. Doubling Season? Check. Whenever we cast a noncreature spell, we put three +1/+1 counters on target creature we control. Branching Evolution? Corpsejack Menace? Doubling Season? Simic Ascendancy? Checks all around. Whenever a land enters the battlefield under our control, we gain three life. Admittedly, Primeval Bounty's third ability is not as strong as the first two in this deck. However, we'll have lands coming into play, and gaining three life each time it happens is great incidental life gain.

  5. Simic Ascendancy: An early-game and unchecked Simic Ascendancy should be game-ending for us in this deck. Whenever we put one or more +1/+1 counters on a creature we control, we put that many growth counters on Simic Ascendancy. At the beginning of our upkeep, if Simic Ascendancy has twenty or more growth counters on it, we win the game. Additionally, we can tap and put a +1 +1 counter on target creature we control. This is an easily achievable alternate win condition in this deck, particularly with the number of doubling spells in the deck.

  6. Selvala, Heart of the Wilds: Selvala, Heart of the Wilds is just too good. Whenever another creature enters the battlefield, its controller may draw a card if its power is greater than each other creature's power. It should be a feat as rare as winter roses that we won't have the creature with the greatest power among all creatures on the battlefield, over, and over, and over, and over again. Additionally, we can tap and tap Selvala, Heart of the Wilds and add to our mana pool X mana in any combination of colors, where X is the greatest power among creatures we control. Selvala, Heart of the Wilds is a piece of our mana acceleration package and one that should net us an unreal amount of value and advantage.

  7. Pemmin's Aura: This aura from Lorwyn is included as an alternate win condition via the creation of infinite mana. By enchanting Pemmin's Aura onto Zaxara, the Exemplary, we tap our General/Commander for . Then, we use to untap Zaxara, the Exemplary. This process provides us with a leftover each time. We continue this loop until we generate enough mana to cast one of our game-ending spells and say "good game" to our opponents.

  8. Kruphix, God of Horizons: Kruphix, God of Horizons is our containment vessel for unused mana. Why should we leave untapped lands at the end step when we can tap them and add colorless mana to Kruphix, God of Horizons's vault?!

  9. Corpsejack Menace: Yes it's a creature and as a creature it is susceptible to removal. However, its inclusion is justified as it doubles the number of +1 +1 counters placed on creatures we control. Worth it.

  10. Retribution of the Ancients: We're going to have a lot of creatures with a lot of +1 +1 counters on them. For the meager initial investment of and subsequent activation costs of each time, we can remove X +1 +1 counters from creatures we control to give target creature -X -X until end of turn. We're utilizing a strength in our deck as means for removal. Our hydra beast tokens do not have trample, so clearing the battlefield for the imminent beat-down of our opponents is preferable, and all for just each time!

The MTG Burgeoning community will shape the rest of the deck. Let's continue with spells. Creatures. Removal. Cantrips. Win conditions. Ramp. Which spells would you include in a Zaxara, the Exemplary EDH/Commander deck? Leave suggestions for the first ten spells here or in the comments section of MTG Burgeoning's 153rd episode on YouTube (the video directly above).

Thank you in advance!

Here is an MTG Burgeoning YouTube video discussing the first ten spells added to the deck:

  1. Villainous Wealth: Have you ever cast Villainous Wealth and played 1/2 of an opponent's deck? What about casting it and playing multiple cards from various opponents' decks? I dream about casting Villainous Wealth with Unbound Flourishing on the battlefield and under my control. By including this alternate win condition, this dream can become reality. Villainous Wealth is a powerful Sultai spell in our format, and when paired with Unbound Flourishing it can be game-ending. This sorcery is another win condition for Zaxara, the Exemplary.

  2. Finale of Revelation: Finale of Revelation is a sorcery, compared to the instant-speed draw spells of Stroke of Genius, Pull from Tomorrow and Blue Sun's Zenith. The casting cost of Finale of Revelation mimics the cost of Pull from Tomorrow, and instant speed is always better than sorcery speed, right? Yes. Of course it is. However, this isn't Mind Spring. This is Finale of Revelation. We draw X cards. If X is ten or more, instead we shuffle our graveyard into our library, draw X cards, untap up to five lands, and we have no maximum hand size for the rest of the game. The additional abilities attached to this card more than compensate for the drawback of sorcery speed. Imagine casting Finale of Revelation for with Unbound Flourishing on the battlefield and under our control. Draw 20 cards. Untap up to 10 lands. Finale of Revelation is draw spell #1 for this deck.

  3. Torment of Hailfire: This is another win condition for our deck. After perusing the cards generated for this deck list thus far, how good is Unbound Flourishing?!? Anyway, our boxes are checked once again. spell? Check. Removal? Check. Win condition? CHECK CHECK. We tap and repeat the following process X times. Each opponent loses three life unless that player sacrifices a nonland permanent or discards a card. Even if Torment of Hailfire fails to eliminate an opponent, it is reasonable to think that any opponents remaining after a healthy casting of this powerful sorcery will have so few resources (nonland permanents, cards in hand) and such a depleted life total that victory is not far away.

  4. Hydroid Krasis: Hydroid Krasis is the best hydra printed to date. This mythic rare from Ravnica Allegiance checks a lot of our boxes. spell? Check. Card draw? Check. Life gain? Check. Creature? Check. Hydroid Krasis enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it. When we CAST Hydroid Krasis, we gain half X life and draw half X cards (rounding down each time). Even if the spell is countered, we still gain the life and draw the cards. Imagine casting Hydroid Krasis with Unbound Flourishing on the battlefield and under our control. We double the value of X, therefore doubling the amount of life gained and the number of cards drawn. This versatile hydra is an auto-include in this type of deck.

  5. Exsanguinate: In a deck that's already filled with win conditions, let's add another! The boxes are checked. spell? Check. Life gain? Check. Win condition? CHECK CHECK. Each opponent loses X life and we gain life equal to the life lost this way. Right to the point. No additional text necessary. Very straight-forward. No beating around the bush. No cliches needed. Smile. See what I did there? Exsanguinate is a win condition for a deck that can generate a lot of mana and copy instant and sorcery spells.

  6. Walking Ballista: Notice the high-degree of synergy Walking Ballista has with cards like Unbound Flourishing, Doubling Season, Branching Evolution and Corpsejack Menace. All of these spells will double the number of +1 +1 counters placed onto Walking Ballista. At instant speed we can remove a +1 +1 counter from Walking Ballista and deal one damage to any target. Imagine any combination of these cards on the battlefield and under our control when we cast Walking Ballista. If we control any two of the aforementioned cards when we cast Walking Ballista then the number of +1 +1 counters placed onto it is quadrupled. What if we control a mana-juiced Kruphix, God of Horizons as well? Walking Ballista is a powerhouse and under the right circumstances we can consider it as another win condition for this deck.

  7. Animist's Awakening: Let's check some boxes here. spell? Check. Ramp spell? Check. Triggers Zaxara, the Exemplary? Check. Synergy with Unbound Flourishing? Check. Usefulness? CHECK CHECK! Imagine the following scenario: We cast Unbound Flourishing and curve into Zaxara, the Exemplary by casting it the following turn. Next turn we cast Animist's Awakening and equals . We resolve Zaxara, the Exemplary's cast trigger and create a green hydra creature token with four +1 +1 counters on it. Each of our two Animist's Awakening spells resolve, and we reveal the top X cards of our library and put all land cards from among them onto the battlefield tapped and the rest on the bottom of our library in a random order. Animist's Awakening has the spell mastery mechanic, which means if there are two or more instant and/or sorcery cards in our graveyard, we untap those lands. As we have many instants and sorceries in our deck, it is reasonable to think we can trigger spell mastery on the Animist's Awakening spells and untap those lands. Under these conditions, for the investment of five mana, we created a 4/4 creature token and will reveal the top eight cards of our library and put all lands cards from among them onto the battlefield...and they're untapped! This scenario is just minor in detail and resources. Imagine what the amount of value Animist's Awakening can generate under more imaginative situations.

  8. Curse of the Swine: Let's check some boxes again. spell? Check. Removal? Check. Synergy? CHECK CHECK! Curse of the Swine exiles X target creatures. For each creature exiled this way, its controller creates a 2/2 green boar creature token. EDH/Commander tables are filled with creatures that are much more problematic than a swath of 2/2 green boar creature tokens. Sorcery-speed removal is not as powerful as instant-speed removal, obviously, but this overlooked blue removal spell EXILES creatures and replaces them with 2/2 green boar creature tokens. This fits the criteria of our deck and slots near the top of our removal category. Underplayed, this spell is.

  9. Voracious Hydra: FULL DISCLOSURE: The creature tokens created by Zaxara, the Exemplary annoy me because they don't have trample. Can you imagine an angel creature token that doesn't fly? A dragon creature token that doesn't fly? A non-trampling hydra!!? I know they exist, but I prefer the evasion of trample. Including a hydra without trample is a difficult selling point for me. So if it doesn't have trample, then the hydra in question better bring some other traits to the table in order to be included in this build. Luckily, we don't have to worry about lack of trample with Voracious Hydra. When Voracious Hydra enters the battlefield, we can choose to double the number of +1/+1 counters on it or have it fight target creature we don't control. This creature checks so many boxes for us. spell? Check. Creature? Check. Removal? CHECK CHECK. The versatility provided by Voracious Hydra warrants its inclusion in the deck, and this is without imagining any synergistic scenarios with any of the aforementioned cards! Voracious Hydra is one of the best hydras EVER PRINTED. That's right. That's not a typo. I have spoken.

  10. Stroke of Genius: Who doesn't love to draw cards!? This is our first instant draw spell and it won't be our last. FULL DISCLOSURE: I prefer this spell over Pull from Tomorrow and Blue Sun's Zenith. Pull from Tomorrow's mana cost is . Stroke of Genius's mana cost is . Pull from Tomorrow has a cheaper converted mana cost but forces us to discard a card. We net the exact same number of cards when casting Stroke and Genius and Pull from Tomorrow if the converted mana cost of the spells are identical. The tie-breaker is in the text. Stroke of Genius says TARGET PLAYER draws X cards, whereas Pull from Tomorrow says DRAW X cards. The versatility of Stroke of Genius is more favorable due to the potential for politics and forcing an opponent to draw their library and die. Additionally, the presence of in the casting cost of Stroke of Genius is more preferable than the in the casting cost for Pull for Tomorrow, slightly. In a three-color deck, minimizing the number of colored mana symbols in our cards is optimal in order to avoid potential color-screw. It is this philosophy that places Blue Sun's Zenith and its mana investment third on this list. Even though we shuffle it back into our library after casting it, there's the potential for problems due to the in its mana cost. Stroke of Genius is #1. Pull from Tomorrow is #2. Blue Sun's Zenith is #3.

Let's include ten more spells! Leave suggestions for the next ten spells here or in the comments section of MTG Burgeoning's 158th episode on YouTube (the video directly above).

Here is an MTG Burgeoning YouTube video discussing the next ten spells added to the deck:

Special thanks/props goes to suggestions made by Zeffyr, an MTG Burgeoning subscriber. Thank you again!

Profane Command: Here is a black spell with four modes and we get to pick two of them. #1: Target player loses X life. Very relevant. #2: Return target creature card with converted mana cost X or less from our graveyard to the battlefield. This mode might be tough. A lot of our creatures are 0/0. As such, this may be the least chosen mode. #3: Target creature gets -X/-X until end of turn. Very relevant. #4: Up to X target creatures gain fear until end of turn. The hydra creature tokens created by Zaxara, the Exemplary are without evasion, in addition to a select few hydra creatures in the deck. Providing evasion in the form of fear is very valuable. Let's start checking boxes. Reduce an opponent's life total? Check. Removal? Check. Battlefield enhancement/board furthering? Check. Possible recursion? Check. Profane Command is a very powerful and versatile spell and its inclusion in the deck is warranted by providing three valuable modal spell options, and we get to pick two of them!

Pull from Tomorrow: Tap and we draw X cards and discard a card, at instant speed. There's very little to dislike about this spell. It's a notch below Stroke of Genius and a notch above Blue Sun's Zenith. All have their places in our deck!

Primordial Hydra: At the beginning of our upkeep, we double the number of +1/+1 counters on Primordial Hydra and it has trample as long as it has ten or more +1/+1 counters on it. Primordial Hydra becomes bigger and more trampley (owning it!) with each of our upkeeps. It draws instant heat from our opponents and if left unchecked can evolve into a win condition. Doubling Season, Branching Evolution, Corpsejack Menace and Simic Ascendancy approve.

Stonecoil Serpent: This snake from Throne of Eldraine is our first artifact creature of the deck. It has reach, trample and protection from multicolored. This is a great smattering of mechanics and can act as an offensive powerhouse or stalwart defensive obstacle. NOTE: Stonecoil Serpent is an ARTIFACT CREATURE and therefore is susceptible to additional forms of removal. However, this risk is worth the potential reward.

Blue Sun's Zenith: With our platform of foreshadowing ending, it was only a matter of time before we discussed Blue Sun's Zenith's placement in our deck. Really, what more can we say? We net the exact same number of cards drawn from Stroke of Genius and Pull from Tomorrow if the converted mana costs are identical. The in this spell's casting cost could be a hindrance, but shuffling the spell back into our library after casting it makes up for this slight obstacle. Hopefully the number of mana-fixing spells in our deck will preclude the potential barrier of . If not, however, then perhaps Blue Sun's Zenith's time in the deck will be short-lived.

Erebos's Intervention: Our first, but not last, entry from Theros Beyond Death, we have an instant spell with two different modes from which to choose. Target creature gets -X/-X until end of turn and we gain X life. Spot creature removal AND life gain in one black interaction is pretty sweet. If that option doesn't tickle our fancies, then we can exile up to twice X target cards from graveyards. Notice the text. It says "from GRAVEYARDS." It doesn't say from "TARGET OPPONENT'S GRAVEYARD." Removing cards from an opponent's graveyard is pretty sweet. Removing multiple cards from various opponents' graveyards are the dark chocolate shavings atop this sundae! Erebos's Intervention provides us instant creature removal or anti-graveyard shenanigans. Well, that is, if EDH/Commander players utilize their graveyards at all. That doesn't happen, does it?

Hungering Hydra: Hungering Hydra doesn't have trample. Or flying. D'oh! However, it can't be blocked by more than one creature. It is safe to believe that our creatures will be among the biggest on the battlefield. So in a creature-vs-creature combat scenario, Hungering Hydra should survive the majority of its attack phases. Additionally, whenever Hungering Hydra is dealt damage, we put that many +1/+1 counters on it. These abilities are more than sufficient to include Hungering Hydra in this deck, even without trample.

Steelbane Hydra: We can tap and remove a +1 +1 counter from Steelbane Hydra and destroy target artifact or enchantment. This addition from Throne of Eldraine has a valuable removal ability attached to its turtle hydra body. This ability is valuable enough to overlook the fact that Steelbane Hydra has no evasion at all (d'oh!), making its inclusion in the deck justified.

Altered Ego: This spell can't be countered. Love it. Love everything about it. We may have Altered Ego enter the battlefield as a copy of any creature on the battlefield, except it enters with X additional +1/+1 counters on it. Altered Ego is basically Clone with the ability to add +1 +1 counters. This shapeshifter's versatility justifies its inclusion in this deck. Any enters-the-battlefield abilities of the copied creature will trigger when Altered Ego enters the battlefield. Also, any “as [this creature] enters the battlefield” or “[this creature] enters the battlefield with” abilities of the chosen creature will also work. And did I mention that this spell can't be countered?

Vastwood Hydra: When Vastwood Hydra dies, we may distribute a number of +1/+1 counters equal to the number of +1/+1 counters on Vastwood Hydra among any number of creatures we control. Although it lacks evasion (d'oh!), the ability of Vastwood Hydra to make our creatures bigger upon its death is valuable, particularly if Doubling Season, Branching Evolution, Corpsejack Menace, Simic Ascendancy and/or Walking Ballista is on the battlefield and under our control.

Let's include ten more spells! Leave suggestions for the last ten spells here or in the comments section of MTG Burgeoning's 163rd episode on YouTube (the video directly above).

Thank you again in advance!

Here is an MTG Burgeoning YouTube video discussing the last ten spells added to the deck:

Special thanks/props goes to suggestions made by Zeffyr and Me Geal, MTG Burgeoning subscribers. Thank you again!

Lifeblood Hydra: This hydra costs . The in a three color deck is not optimal. However, Lifeblood Hydra's got the goods. It has trample. So we can check the box for evasion. Additionally, when Lifeblood Hydra dies, we gain life and draw cards equal to its power. There are boxes getting checked all over the place with this hydra! Lifeblood Hydra's inclusion in the deck would've happened much sooner, but a copy of it was not available. Well, it's available now BABY!

Mistcutter Hydra: I like when spells can't be countered. I like when creatures have haste. I like when creatures have protection from blue. I LOVE when a creature has all of these abilities and is an spell! Mistcutter Hydra is a great addition to this deck and would've been included earlier, but a copy of it was not available. Well, it's available now BABY!

Hooded Hydra: The trend of unavailable hydra creatures becoming available continues! Hooded Hydra doesn't have evasion (d'oh!). It doesn't allow us to draw cards, destroy permanents, make other creatures bigger or gain life. However, when Hooded Hydra dies we get to create a 1/1 green snake creature token for each +1/+1 counter on it. We exchange one big creature for many smaller ones. We can also morph Hooded Hydra for and we do, we put five +1 +1 counters on it. There's some versatility present in this spell, making its evasion-less entry into our deck justified.

Gadwick, the Wizened: When Gadwick, the Wizened enters the battlefield, we draw X cards. As a bonus, whenever we cast a blue spell, we tap target nonland permanent an opponent controls. Gadwick, the Wizened's may be troublesome in a three-color deck, but I believe that enough color-fixing will be included in the deck in order to minimize this concern. Although this nonhydra creature possesses no evasion, it checks the boxes of spell and card-draw. Gadwick, the Wizened's tap ability can be useful, provided we cast enough blue spells to make it worthwhile. Even so, triggering Zaxara, the Exemplary and drawing X cards on a creature spell is favorable enough to warrant its inclusion in the deck.

Thassa's Intervention: Theros Beyond Death's intervention cycle is back and this time we're intervening with Thassa. Wow. Okay. Light bulb. What a great name for a Pod Cast: "Intervening with Thassa." Trademark baby, TRADEMARK! Anyway, as with the other intervention spells from this cycle, we are presented with two modes from which to choose. We can look at the top X cards of our library and put up to two of them into our hand and the rest on the bottom of our library in a random order. We can dig pretty deep into our library in order to find two prime targets for whatever the game dictates at the time. Or, we can counter target spell unless its controller pays twice . Versatility is preferred in our bevvy of spells and Thassa's Intervention follows suit.

Open Into Wonder: This uncommon sorcery from Amonkhet provides our creatures with some much-desired evasion, and a bonus! When we cast this spell, X target creatures can't be blocked this turn, and until the end of turn, those creatures gain: "Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, we draw a card." As stated previously, our hydra creature tokens do not have evasion, but Open Into Wonder makes our creatures unblockable for a turn, and draws us cards when they deal combat damage to a player! Under the right circumstances, this spell can be considered a win condition. That's a great value, considering it's the 36th card added to the deck.

Wildest Dreams: For we return X target cards from our graveyard to our hand and then we exile Wildest Dreams. Notice the text. It says "X TARGET CARDS." It doesn't say "X TARGET CREATURE CARDS." It doesn't say "X TARGET PERMANENT CARDS." We return ANY CARD(S). For Wildest Dreams does the Eternal Witness thing. However, each additional we invest into the returns another CARD from our graveyard to our hand. ANY CARD. It's unfortunate that Wildest Dreams is exiled, but as a one-shot spell it is a very valuable piece of graveyard recursion.

Black Sun's Zenith: My instincts are telling me not to include this card. Yes, it checks the box of an spell. Yes, it checks the box of mass removal, dodging hexproof, shroud and indestructible. However, we do not benefit from casting Black Sun's Zenith with Zaxara, the Exemplary on the battlefield. The hydra creature token created will die, and, most likely, Zaxara, the Exemplary will die as well. The in a three-color deck could be viewed as a deterrent. Perhaps I should re-frame this spell as the outlier of the group. It's an spell that counts as mass removal and it's shuffled back into the library upon casting it, and nothing more. Maybe that's enough to quell my trepidation. Okay. Yes. Let's do that. However, we'll keep eyes on this spell in order to track its usefulness in our deck. Perhaps In Garruk's Wake would be better?

Death Denied: With Death Denied, we can return X target creature cards from our graveyard to our hand. Generally I would prefer a spell like Living Death, Patriarch's Bidding and/or Rise of the Dark Realms in a pseudo-tribal deck like this one. However, nearly all of our creatures have base power and toughness of 0/0, and casting any of the aforementioned spells would result a quick return trip to our graveyard for most of our creatures. Besides, we're trying to take advantage of Zaxara, the Exemplary's cast trigger. So let's return these creatures from our graveyard to our hand instead, re-reaping the benefits of these cast triggers. Casting Death Denied on our opponent's end step can re-stock our hand with prime spell hydras.

Gelatinous Genesis: Gelatinous Genesis allows us to create X X/X green ooze creature tokens. This sorcery checks the box of an spell and creates token creatures. The is warranted, considering the type of board presence this spell can create. As a comparison, if equals as we cast a hydra creature spell, then we put onto the battlefield a 10/10 hydra creature. If we tap as we cast Gelatinous Genesis (each equals ), then we put onto the battlefield five 5/5 hydra creature tokens. That's a total of 25 power and toughness stretched across five ooze creature tokens as opposed to a 10/10 hydra creature. 25 POWER FOR !! As the last spell to be included in this deck, Gelatinous Genesis is a valuable, powerful and overwhelmingly underplayed addition. At the time of this card's incorporation into our deck, Gelatinous Genesis is played in 1,709 out of 207,162 decks via EDHREC.com. That's 0.82%. THIS CARD IS UNDERPLAYED!

Excellent! With 30 spells added to this deck, we are prepared to take full advantage of Zaxara, the Exemplary's cast trigger. Now, let's complete our list of spells! What do we add now? Auxiliary creatures? Ramp spells? Additional removal? Spells that enhance our board state? Protection? Let's say that at least half of the remaining spells should be ramp. Leave suggestions for the last 20-24 spells here or in the comments section of MTG Burgeoning's 168th episode on YouTube (the video directly above).

Thank you again in advance!

Here is an MTG Burgeoning YouTube video discussing the final 24 spells added to the deck:

Big-time shout-outs go to bakawagg for suggestions offered for these final two dozen spells. Thank you again!

  1. Kalonian Hydra: Kalonian Hydra enters the battlefield with four +1/+1 counters on it. Whenever Kalonian Hydra attacks we double the number of +1/+1 counters on each creature we control. If this creature is paired with any combination of Doubling Season, Branching Evolution, Corpsejack Menace, Simic Ascendancy and/or Walking Ballista, then the results could be game-ending. Kalonian Hydra is a finisher and the first card included after our trove of spells.

  2. Garruk's Uprising: Garruk's Uprising is a solid enchantment for this deck. It will provide trample to our hydra creature tokens that are created by Zaxara, the Exemplary. Although it will not trigger upon Zaxara's cast trigger (as a 0/0 creature enters the battlefield and THEN X +1 +1 counters are placed on it), providing trample to all of our creatures and card draw for our hydra creature spells (which will trigger Garruk's Uprising) justifies its inclusion in the deck. Shoutout to GUTH from the comments section for clarifying the interaction between Zaxara, the Exemplary and Garruk's Uprising. Thank you GUTH and thank you Core 2021!

  3. Strionic Resonator: We tap and tap Strionic Resonator and we copy target triggered ability we control. We may choose new targets for the copy. This artifact, originally printed in Core Set 2014, can be game-breaking. Let's review some cards from our deck with which Strionic Resonator favorably interacts: Primeval Bounty, Simic Ascendancy, Unbound Flourishing, Hungering Hydra, Hydroid Krasis, Selvala, Heart of the Wilds, Vastwood Hydra, Voracious Hydra, Lifeblood Hydra, Hooded Hydra, Gadwick, the Wizened, Kalonian Hydra, Garruk's Uprising and our General/Commander, Zaxara, the Exemplary. Activating Strionic Resonator to copy any of these triggered abilities is too valuable and favorable not to include.

  4. Lightning Greaves: This EDH/Commander staple gives equipped creature haste and shroud...for . Yep. Best equipment in our format. Sorry, Skullclamp. Casting a big, fierce hydra with trample and waiting a turn to attack with it and providing our opponents opportunities to remove it with sorcery speed removal hurts. It hurts a lot. Equipping Lightning Greaves to our hydra while the dust around its summoning still is settling feels good. It feels really good. Zaxara, the Exemplary agrees and approves.

  5. Asceticism: What's better than giving one of our hydras shroud? How about giving ALL of our hydras hexproof!? Asceticism gives all of our creatures hexproof. Additionally, for we can regenerate target creature. Notice the text. It says "REGENERATE TARGET CREATURE." It doesn't say "regenerate target creature YOU CONTROL." We can politic a little bit at the EDH/Commander table. However, let's not mistake the true intentions of including this enchantment from Scars of Mirrodin: Protecting our squad.

  6. Demonic Tutor: The best tutor in Magic: the Gathering. For we search our library for any card and put that card into our hand. Target #1 is Unbound Flourishing.

  7. Diabolic Intent: This is Demonic Tutor #2, except as an additional cost we must sacrifice a creature. This is not a problem because of the number of token creatures we plan to create.

  8. Rhystic Study: MANA TAX . Yes. That's right. MANA TAX . I am lobbying to replace the ever-tedious "are you going to pay for that?" with MANA TAX . I sense there's an app possibility here. Anyway, annoyances aside, Rhystic Study either slows down an opponent or ramps-up our hand. Either of those choices are favorable. We're playing blue so it's an auto-include.

  9. Cyclonic Rift: As the salt rains down, yes, Cyclonic Rift is included in the deck. We're playing blue, so we're playing Rift. An overloaded Cyclonic Rift is so advantageous that its continued existence away from the EDH/Commander ban list still surprises me. It's not banned though, and we're in blue, so we've got to play it.

  10. The Ozolith: The Ozolith says that whenever a creature we control leaves the battlefield, if it had counters on it, put those counters on The Ozolith. Our creatures are going to be STACKED with +1 +1 counters. Then, at the beginning of combat on our turn, if The Ozolith has counters on it, we may move all counters from The Ozolith onto target creature. It's reasonable to believe that some of our creatures will die. Storing their +1 +1 counters on The Ozolith for later use is resourceful and can be game-ending. Doubling Season and Simic Ascendancy approve.

  11. Assassin's Trophy: Assassin's Trophy destroys any target permanent an opponent controls. The controller of the destroyed permanent gets to search their library for a basic land card and put it onto the battlefield under their control. Gifting an opponent with a free basic land is not optimal. However, destroying a troublesome permanent in exchange for a basic land justifies it.

  12. Beast Within: At instant speed we can tap and destroy target permanent. The controller of this destroyed permanent gets a 3/3 green beast creature token as a consolation prize, which is a deal we'll take every day of the week, and twice on Friday Nights!

  13. Sol Ring: Best artifact in the format.

  14. Arcane Signet: Second-best artifact in the format.

  15. Thought Vessel: I like cards. I like cards in my hand. I don't like discarding down to maximum hand size. We have a myriad draw spells in our deck. It is easy to envision scenarios when we reach the beginning of our end step and have more than seven cards in our hand. We have a lot of card-drawing spells in our deck. Thought Vessel removes our maximum hand size requirement and allows us to keep those cards in our hand. It can also tap and add .

  16. Farseek: We search our library for a Plains, Island, Swamp, or Mountain card and put it onto the battlefield tapped. Notice the text. It says "Plains, Island, Swamp, or Mountain CARD." It doesn't say "BASIC LAND CARD." We can fetch-out any land that has the sub-type of Plains, Island, Swamp, or Mountain. Shock land? Yep. Triome? Yep. Battle land? Yep. Original dual land? OH YEAH!

  17. Rampant Growth: We search our library for a basic land card and put that card onto the battlefield tapped. Here we have the restriction of "basic land card," which is absent from Farseek. Rampant Growth still has value as we can fetch-out any basic land from our library.

  18. Bloom Tender: For each color among permanents we control, Bloom Tender can tap and add one mana of that color. Worst case scenario? An over-costed Llanowar Elves. Best case scenario? . Most likely scenario? and either or . The upside is attractive and makes the addition of Bloom Tender justified.

  19. Kodama's Reach: Kodama's Reach gets top-billing here because it is the original. We search our library for up to two basic land cards, reveal those cards, and put one onto the battlefield tapped and the other into our hand. We ramp. We color-fix. We stockpile lands in order to cast our cache of spells.

  20. Cultivate: Cultivate takes a back-seat to the original. We search our library for up to two basic land cards, reveal those cards, and put one onto the battlefield tapped and the other into our hand. We ramp. We color-fix. We stockpile lands in order to cast our cache of spells.

  21. Growing Rites of Itlimoc  : This is Gaea's Cradle #2. When Growing Rites of Itlimoc   enters the battlefield, we look at the top four cards of our library. We may reveal a creature card from among them and put it into our hand. Okay, so we dig four deep and hopefully find a creature card. The odds are against us with this ability, but the other ability makes up for it. At the beginning of our end step, if we control four or more creatures, transform Growing Rites of Itlimoc  . Growing Rites of Itlimoc   transforms into a land appropriately named Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun  . In essence, Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun   is a BETTER version of Gaea's Cradle. It provides for each creature we control like Gaea's Cradle does, but it can also tap and provide , something Gaea's Cradle can't do without a creature on the battlefield and under our control. Having Gaea's Cradle on the battlefield without any creatures hurts. It hurts a lot. Growing Rites of Itlimoc   transforming into Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun   feels good. It feels really good. Potentially having two Gaea's Cradles on the battlefield at the same time in a deck flush with spells is going to feel even better!

  22. Chromatic Lantern: Chromatic Lantern taps to add one mana of any color and makes each of our lands tap to add one mana of any color. This color-fixing extraordinaire from Return to Ravnica smooths out our mana and allows us to cast those triple-color spells with less effort and concern.

  23. Thran Dynamo: Thran Dynamo is a great resource to utilize when casting our spells. Its mana cost is , but it taps to add to our mana pool. No restrictions. No limitations. No drawbacks. Essentially, we're netting mana when compared to the mana cost/mana production ratio of cards like Arcane Signent and Thought Vessel. Each of these artifacts produce one mana for a converted mana cost of . Thran Dynamo does it better, by producing 1.5 mana for each of its mana cost. Value!

  24. Mana Reflection: With a glut of spells in this deck, we want to maximize the cost of as much as possible. Mana Reflection helps us do this. If we tap a permanent for mana, it produces twice as much of that mana instead. Notice the text. It says "if we TAP A PERMANENT FOR MANA, it PRODUCES TWICE AS MUCH OF THAT MANA." This is not like Mirari's Wake of Zendikar Resurgent, when we tap a LAND for mana, add ONE MANA of any type that land produced. DOUBLE MANA. Imagine the possibilities. Zaxara, the Exemplary can tap add four mana of any one color. Gaea's Cradle and Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun   add double green. Selvala, Heart of the Wilds? Bloom Tender? Imagine the satisfaction of tapping Sol Ring for . Mana Reflection is a powerful addition to our deck.

The deck list is looking AWESOME!! With 64 spells and our General/Commander, all that remains is our land base. Leave suggestions for any of the 35 lands to be included here or in the comments section of MTG Burgeoning's 178th episode on YouTube (the video directly above).

Thank you in advance!

Here is an MTG Burgeoning YouTube video discussing cards left out of the initial build (honorable mentions) as well as the installation of the land base:

Shout-outs to MTG Burgeoning subscribers Tim Bister and Zeffyr for suggestions offered for the land base. Thank you again!

HONORABLE MENTIONS (11)

Not all spells are created equal. Here is a list of honorable mentions that were given consideration but did not make the top 30 spells for this Zaxara, the Exemplary build.

Biomass Mutation: Biomass Mutation can be considered a win condition in our deck. The majority of our creature spells, and our hydra creature tokens created by Zaxara, the Exemplary, have base power and toughness of 0/0. They enter the battlefield with +1 +1 counters. When we cast Biomass Mutation, our creatures can receive a considerable boost in their respective power and toughness until end of turn. If evasion is present and we cast Biomass Mutation to pump-up our creatures , we can stomp-out our opponents in combat and end the game. Like so many other spells in this deck, Biomass Mutation is enhanced by the presence of Unbound Flourishing.

Strength of the Tajuru: I love multikicker spells! Strength of the Tajuru has multikicker . When we cast this spell, we choose target creature, then we choose another target creature for each time this spell iss kicked. Put X +1/+1 counters on each of them. Notice the text. It says CHOOSE TARGET CREATURE. It doesn't say CHOOSE TARGET CREATURE YOU CONTROL. We can cast this spell targeting our opponents' creatures as well. Combat tricks and ambushes galore! Strength of Tajuru provides us with so many options at instant speed that an unenviable amount of second-guessing is occurring secondary to this card's omission from the deck. Our deck is equipped with multiple scenarios in which Strength of the Tajuru can be considered a won condition. We shall see through game-play and play-testing if it was the right decision.

Skeletal Scrying: I badly wanted to include this card. This was going to be my pet inclusion into our deck. As an instant, Skeletal Scrying let's us draw X cards and lose X life. This is very reasonable. Life for cards is what black does. However, as an additional cost to cast this spell, we must exile X cards from our graveyard. Clearly, this is not a graveyard recursion deck. So the cards in our graveyard do not provide an overabundance of need or value in any mass-recursive way, but still.....we have ways to get cards back from our graveyard. When the top 30 spells of this deck rounded into form, it was difficult to place Skeletal Scrying ahead of cards like Stroke of Genius, Pull from Tomorrow, Blue Sun's Zenith or even Gadwick, the Wizened. Thus, Skeletal Scrying is delegated to the list of honorable mentions.

Dominate: This is Entrancing Melody cast at instant speed and for a little more mana. For we gain control of target creature with converted mana cost X or less. This spell's flexibility at instant-speed is a bonus. Need a blocker? Dominate an opponent's creature. Getting attacked? Dominate the attacking creature. Planning for combat? End-of-turn Dominate an opponent's creature so it's under our control prior to the beginning of our turn and isn't affected by summoning sickness.

Mass Manipulation: Before we begin with this description, in a three color deck is insanity. Sometimes, even with the most varied amount of color-fixing spells in a deck, color-screw still can happen. It does not feel good clutching Mass Manipulation in our hand while staring down at a mana base that can only provide or . Additionally, this isn't just an spell. It's an spell. So in order for to equal it will cost us . The spell itself must be valuable enough to compensate for these limitations. Is it? Maybe. Perhaps. Mass Manipulation allows us to gain control of X target creatures and/or planeswalkers. This spell checks the box for spells and also checks the box for removal/disruption. If we invest ten mana () into Mass Manipulation then we will gain control of any combination of three creatures and/or planeswalkers. If we control Zaxara, the Exemplary, then we also create a hydra creature token with three +1 +1 counters. What if, however, we cast Mass Manipulation with Unbound Flourishing on the battlefield and under our control? Under the same aforementioned scenario, then we gain control of any combination of six creatures and/or planeswalkers. Intensive mana cost. in the mana cost. Sorcery speed. Mass Manipulation is inundated with obstacles. Adding this spell to the top 30 spells for Zaxara, the Exemplary was too difficult and therefore currently resides in the hall of honorable mentions.

Mind Spring: Two words and an eventual: Draw cards. We draw one more card from this spell than Stroke of Genius, Pull from Tomorrow and Blue Sun's Zenith if the converted mana costs of these spells are equal. The drawback? It's at sorcery speed. Instant speed is always preferred over sorcery speed. Although drawing cards in any way is more preferred than not drawing any cards at all, Gadwick, the Wizened is a better version of Mind Spring for an additional , thus relegating the latter as an honorable mention.

The Crowd Goes Wild: With The Crowd Goes Wild, we support X, which means we put a +1/+1 counter on each of up to X target creatures. Additionally, each creature with a +1/+1 counter on it gains trample until end of turn. I want this spell to be an instant. Can you imagine the potential for ambushing unsuspecting opponents or the politics associated with this card if it were an instant? Providing our creature with temporary evasion is beneficial, and additional +1 +1 counters are nice too. The sorcery speed is a hindrance and my reason for not including it in the initial build of this deck.

Entrancing Melody: We gain control of target creature with converted mana cost X. As this card is a sorcery, it has its limitations. Even at the additional mana cost of , Dominate is a better spell than Entrancing Melody. It is an spell that was considered but didn't make the top 30 list.

Nylea's Intervention: Nylea's Intervention is a sorcery as opposed to the two instant interventions previously discussed. Honestly, I don't hate all sorcery spells! We can search our library for up to X land cards, reveal them and put them into our hand. Notice the text. It says "search our library for up to X LAND CARDS." It doesn't say "search our library for up to X BASIC LAND CARDS." This is a very valuable difference, as Gaea's Cradle is an excellent target for Nylea's Intervention. Our other option is to deal twice X damage to each creature with flying. X spell? Check. Ramp spell? Check. Removal spell? Check. That's a lot of boxes checked. So why is Nylea's Intervention not included in this deck? The removal spell deals damage to each creature with flying. If our opponents control creatures without flying, then this removal spell is wasting space in our hand. Additionally, it seems unfavorable to include a mass-land-fetching spell while we will often have numerous lands in our hand due to the high number of card-draw spells already included. Aside from the sheer power of Gaea's Cradle, no other lands will warrant tutoring. Besides, we'll include some spells to help get Gaea's Cradle when needed.

Battle at the Bridge: This card was included in the deck before I decided to pay attention and realize that it's a sorcery spell and not an instant spell. D'oh! That's a shame, because Battle at the Bridge provides spot-creature removal and life-gain, but at sorcery speed. When cast, Battle at the Bridge gives target creature -X/-X until end of turn and we gain X life. Instant-speed spot-creature removal is much more valuable than sorcery-speed spot-creature removal that dropping Battle at the Bridge from consideration of the top 30 spells for this Zaxara, the Exemplary build was not difficult. Still, it's worth mentioning. SIDE-NOTE DISCLOSURE: Seriously?! This is a rare?!!

Stolen by the Fae: Stolen by the Fae is another example of a spot-creature removal spell falling short due to its speed. Stolen by the Fae returns target creature with converted mana cost X to its owner's hand, and then we create X 1/1 blue faerie creature tokens with flying, all at sorcery-speed. D'oh! Creating faerie tokens is enticing, particularly with Doubling Season in our deck, but it's difficult to include this type of removal spell over spells like Beast Within, Assassin's Trophy and/or Sultai Charm.

COUNTERSPELLS (5)

The following spells were not included in the top 30 spells for Zaxara, the Exemplary due to my meta-game's general disdain for counterspells. This is understandable. However, for more relaxed meta-games, LGS and/or EDH/Commander League play, consider the following counterspells:

Power Sink: Counter target spell unless its controller pays . If that player doesn't, they tap all lands with mana abilities they control and lose all unspent mana.

Condescend: Counter target spell unless its controller pays . Scry 2.

Logic Knot: Counter target spell unless its controller pays . This spell also has the delve mechanic (each card we exile from our graveyard while casting this spell pays for ).

Syncopate: Counter target spell unless its controller pays . If that spell is countered this way, exile it instead of putting it into its owner's graveyard.

Clash of Wills: Counter target spell unless its controller pays .

LANDS (35)

Installing our land base is all that remains for this deck's completion. The following 35 lands will bring our deck list up to 99 cards, paving the way for this Zaxara, the Exemplary EDH/Commander build to enter the foray of game-play!

Island: Four of them in the deck.

Swamp: Four of them in the deck.

Forest: Four of them in the deck.

The appropriate Check Lands (Drowned Catacomb, Woodland Cemetery, Hinterland Harbor) are included.

The appropriate Shock Lands (Watery Grave, Overgrown Tomb, Breeding Pool) are included.

Three fetch lands are included: Prismatic Vista, Polluted Delta and Misty Rainforest.

Command Tower: Best land in our format.

Mana Confluence: With the cost of one life per activation, Mana Confluence is Command Tower #2.

Reflecting Pool: It is very safe to believe that Reflecting Pool will act as Command Tower #3.

Path of Ancestry: Path of Ancestry enters the battlefield tapped, but we can tap it and add one mana of any color in our commander's color identity. If that mana is spent to cast a creature spell that shares a creature type with our commander (hydra), then we can scry 1. Path of Ancestry is Command Tower #4 with a scry 1 bonus!

Exotic Orchard: Worst case scenario? Exotic Orchard will produce no mana for us. Best case scenario? Exotic Orchard is Command Tower #5. Most likely scenario? Exotic Orchard will produce two out of our three colors consistently. We're a Sultai deck, so thinking of Exotic Orchard as another Command Tower is not far-fetched.

Opulent Palace: Opulent Palace enters the battlefield tapped but does provide , or . FULL DISCLOSURE: Opulent Palace is a place-holder for Zagoth Triome. Zagoth Triome is superior to Opulent Palace in multiple ways. It adds cycling for and can be targeted by Polluted Delta and Misty Rainforest. When a copy of Zagoth Triome becomes available it will replace Opulent Palace without hesitation.

Castle Garenbrig: Castle Garenbrig is a sneaky inclusion into our land base. It enters the battlefield tapped unless we control a forest. If we tap and tap it, Castle Garenbrig provides . We can only spend this mana to cast creature spells or activate abilities of creatures. We have over a dozen creature spells with in its casting cost. The selective ramp provided by Castle Garenbrig justifies its inclusion into the land base. At worst, it provides . The ceiling is much higher!

Gaea's Cradle: If we have creatures on the battlefield, Gaea's Cradle is an All-Star. If our battlefield is sans anything living, it hurts. It hurts a lot. The reward is chart-toppingly higher than the risk, and that's enough to warrant Gaea's Cradle's addition to this land base.

Temple of the False God: Here is another land that can provide more than one mana when tapped but has a restriction. As long as we have at least four other lands, Temple of the False God will give us when we tap it. Remember, we're all about maximizing the size of our spells in order to create big hydra creature tokens with Zaxara, the Exemplary. DISCLOSURE: With this theme in mind, it's only a matter of time until an available copy of Ancient Tomb finds its way into this deck.

Alchemist's Refuge: Giving flash to our spells is awesome! How about an end-of-turn Villainous Wealth? What about flashing in a fully juiced Gelatinous Genesis during our last opponent's end step? Alchemist's Refuge gifts us with an alternative way to play the game.

Rogue's Passage: When we're trying to slip through for lethal damage, Rogue's Passage can assure us of imminent victory by making one of our creatures unblockable until end of turn. Additionally, the added spice of politics is beneficial, as Rogue's Passage TARGETS A CREATURE and not A CREATURE WE CONTROL.

Reliquary Tower: This is the land version of Thought Vessel. We have the resources to draw a lot of cards. I don't know about you, but for me, I like cards. I don't like discarding down to seven cards. Reliquary Tower helps to ensure that we get to keep those valuable cardboard rectangles in our hand and not our graveyard.

Karn's Bastion: Karn's Bastion is a great land to include in a deck that's dolling out +1 +1 counters as frequently as an eight-year old's Pez dispenser. We tap and tap Karn's Bastion and proliferate. Imagine if we have Doubling Season, Corpsejack Menace, Branching Evolution and/or Simic Ascendancy under out control while activating Karn's Bastion. We can also mention the potential political gains of including this land. Proliferate permits us to choose any number of permanents and/or players and then give each another counter of each kind already there. Proliferate doesn't TARGET. Hexproof isn't a problem. Shroud isn't a problem. Karn's Bastion has versatility!

Strip Mine: Just in case someone has the gall to Vesuva or Thespian's Stage our Gaea's Cradle, Strip Mine is included to let that opponent know what's up. Only we can sit down at the EDH/Commander table with Gaea's Cradle. No one else is allowed!

This Zaxara, the Exemplary build has been evaluated through a nine-game showcase of two- and three-player games. During these games, the following areas of focus were observed and analyzed:

  1. Land drop frequency. How often does the deck play a land each turn?

  2. Win percentage. How many times did the deck win? Was it competitive in losses?

  3. Win variability. How did the deck win?

  4. Length of game. How many turns did the deck need to win?

  5. Card evaluation. Which cards are useful? Which cards are not useful? Which cards have not been evaluated thoroughly thus far?

3-PLAYER MATCH (Zacama, Primal Calamity Naya Populate & Kenrith, the Returned King Good Stuff)

An opening hand of two lands and no mana/artifact ramp results in a free mulligan. Keep this hand.

T1: Land.

T2: Land, cast Demonic Tutor to bring Unbound Flourishing to our hand.

T3: Land, cast Unbound Flourishing.

T4: Land, cast Stonecoil Serpent with eight +1 +1 counters due to Unbound Flourishing.

T5: Land (Castle Garenbrig), cast Primordial Hydra with eight +1 +1 counters due to Unbound Flourishing. Primordial Hydra is Mortifyed at end of turn.

T6: Land, cast Primeval Bounty. Attack Kenrith, the Returned King with Stonecoil Serpent. No blocks.

T7: Land, cast Zaxara, the Exemplary, create 3/3 green beast creature token from Primeval Bounty. Cast Steelbane Hydra with two +1 +1 counters, create 3/3 green beast creature token from Primeval Bounty and create a green hydra creature token with two +1 +1 counters on it from Zaxara, the Exemplary's cast trigger. No attacks due to army of creature tokens amassed by Zacama, Primal Calamity. Playing defense. Pass. Kenrith, the Returned King is having mana problems.

T8: Land, attack Kenrith, the Returned King after Zacama, Primal Calamity attacked him during his turn. Kenrith, the Returned King is in trouble.

T9: NO LAND DROP. Cast Thran Dynamo, Rampant Growth and Beast Within Zacama, Primal Calamity's Sol Ring - preventing T9 summoning of General/Commander. Create three 3/3 green beast creature tokens through Primeval Bounty. Attack Kenrith, the Returned King for lethal damage. Pass. Opponent casts Zacama, Primal Calamity anyways (D'OH!) and does a lot of Zacama, Primal Calamity things: Destroys Unbound Flourishing, Primeval Bounty and Zaxara, the Exemplary. Zacama, Primal Calamity is threatening with a massive board state after wiping out our Zaxara, the Exemplary engine.

T10: Land, cast Black Sun's Zenith. Wipe the board. WHEW! Unfortunately, Atla Palani, Nest Tender had three eggs in play, resulting in: Shaman of Forgotten Ways, Trostani, Selesnya's Voice and Marisi, Breaker of the Coil for the opponent. D'OH! Pass the turn to Zacama, Primal Calamity and watch him cast Desolation Twin.

T11: Land, cast Zaxara, the Exemplary and Corpsejack Menace while holding Gelatinous Genesis in hand. Pass, hoping to see one more turn. As opposed to activating Shaman of Forgotten Ways's Biorhythm ability, opponent casts Zacama, Primal Calamity and then opts to tap-out and casts Full Flowering, populating five times and gaining 50 life. He passes.

T12: Land, cast The Ozolith and tap-out to cast