I enjoy unpredictability.
I've said in the past that I enjoy a good chaotic game, and this is true. What I don't tend to like as much is chaos in my decks. Chaos tends to be codespeak for a series of cards that create game states that are difficult to decipher. These are fun games for me, but I prefer not to build decks that are designed to make that happen. What I really want is unpredictability in by deck builds.
I like a deck that can go in a hundred different directions and plays out differently every time. I like my card draws to be little surprises that can send my plans in all new directions. This is part of the reason I rarely include tutors in my decks. These decks force you to adapt quickly and think on the fly. I'm not very good at either of those things, but I try to use my Magic games as a way to make me better. This hurts my win rate, but I play games to get better with useful skills and have fun. Both of those things happen with unpredictable decks.
I really discovered this while playing Grenzo, Dungeon Warden. I built a deck that tried to Cultivate the bottom of my library so I would always hit the cards I was needed. The deck was fun and demanded a level of skill. During one game, I simply had no way to control what was on the bottom of my deck, so I simply tapped out at the end of my opponent's turn and flipped five cards blindly. Four of them were creatures that went into play and helped me attack the next turn for the victory. In the end, though, it wasn't the victory, it was the blind flip that made the moment so memorable. Everyone watching to see what the next card would be was a great story moment. The unpredictability made it fun!
Even given that, in the end though, your deck can only surprise you so much. You know the 100 cards that you put in the deck. You know how likely it is that you are going to flip a land or find the card you need. If you need to get rid of a creature, you know which cards in your deck can do that for you. There is a limit to the amount of unpredictability in your deck and your game, since you picked the cards.
But what about your opponents' decks?
I didn't pick their cards or their decks. What they choose to play is completely up to them. I can make guesses as to the contents of their decks, but the most unpredictable part of the game has to be the opponents' decks. Well, what if I could draw their cards?
Daxos of Meletis can make that happen. Daxos lets me cast spells from my opponents' decks! The level of unpredictability can go way up! I can try and set up my entire deck as a way to play my opponents' cards!
The best way to start any Commander deck build that revolves around the commander is to break down the commander into its parts.
- Can't be blocked by creatures with power 3 or greater.
Since the point of the deck is to do the combat damage necessary to play their cards, this phrase means that the only creatures that can stop Daxos have to have two or less power. We can look to add cards that give Daxos a toughness of at least three, so he won't die in standard combat. Making it so he can only be blocked by a single creature also helps keep him alive. While making him unblockable doesn't take advantage of the ability, it does what we're looking to do. Ways that give Daxos trample can also help. I'm sure you can come up with other options; swing and hit, and you don't have to worry about the big guys.
- Whenever Daxos of Meletis deals combat damage to a player, exile the top card of that player's library.
This is not something that I'm looking to take advantage with this deck, but it is something to keep in mind when you are playing. Plenty of players try to control the top of their library, whether through Sensei's Divining Top or searching for a card and putting it on top, or putting a card from the battlefield on top of their library. This is a way to exile that card so you don't have to deal with it anymore!
Another option lies with some of your removal. Memory Lapse is a counter that slows your opponent down, but they were going to get to play the spell again. Now, you know what the spell is on top of their library. Not exactly as unpredictable as I like, but it certainly sets you up to play it!
Another thing to keep in mind is that double strike deals combat damage twice. This would let you exile the top card twice. More options is a good thing!
- You gain life equal to that card's converted mana cost.
Assuming we are not controlling the cards that we see, roughly 40 percent of the time, we aren't going to gain any life, since we'll flip a land. However, given that the average card in most Commander decks costs about 3.5 mana, we will be gaining roughly two life per turn. This isn't something I would want to rely on, but it does add to the appeal of cards like Ajani's Pridemate, Cradle of Vitality, Drogskol Reaver, or Serene Steward.
- Until end of turn, you may cast that card…
This is the key part of the card for our purposes. We get to play the card! There are some key restrictions we need to note though. The effect only lasts until the end of the turn. Consider:
· Our window to cast the card is going to be our second main phase. This means that instants and sorceries that affect combat are useless to cast. Cards that aren't helpful during that time, aren't going to be worth casting.
· We still need the mana to cast the card. This isn't a chance to cast cards for free, just cast cards. If we haven't ramped our mana up, we won't be enjoying Genesis Wave or a large Eldrazi spell. Mana ramp will need to be something our deck really focuses on.
Also remember we must cast the card, not play the card. This means you don't get to cast that land you found. Daxos is only going to help with ramping if you can find a Sol Ring or artifacts that can tap for mana.
Given the breakdown, what made the list?
I was thrilled to see Goring Ceratops and Daring Saboteur make the cut. Daxos really loves some double strike. Getting to hit someone twice is just delightful and this dinosaur gives that to Daxos and anyone else swinging in. The Saboteur has a similar style to Daxos and gives the deck some needed card draw, all while being low enough on the curve that it will also help to find land in the early game.
I was also happy to add Sword of Feast and Famine into a deck that can really use it. Daxos becomes that much harder for opponents to block him, and your lands are untapped so you get the best chance possible to cast whatever it is that you manage to find!
I also included Skeleton Key, but more as a card for creatures other than Daxos to hold. All Skeleton Key offers to Daxos is the looting ability. That is nice, and if Daxos is the only creature swinging in then equip him, but putting this on another creature gives it some amount of evasion and doesn't load all the eggs into the one Daxos basket quite so much.
I should note that many of the Daxos builds that I looked at online have a much strong pillow fort mentality. Plenty of Ghostly Prison and Propaganda-style cards were in a lot of decks. I opted to go with a more aggressive approach. We are not winning games with commander damage. While there is a Voltron element to the deck, the goal is to hit with Daxos for any amount of damage so you can play opponents' cards. I'm hoping that threatening for two or three points of damage with Daxos isn't enough to drive your opponents to come at you in such a way that you find you need more than a moderate defense.
Finally, there are a couple of cards that didn't make the cut, that you may want to include in your version. Moonring Island is part of a cycle of lands that have a basic land type but do more than just tap for that color of mana. The island allows you to look at the top card of a player's library. Generally when I put these decks together, there are few surprises. Sometimes I'm surprised that one card makes the cut over another, but there is rarely a card that I have never heard of that makes the cut. Moonring Island was a surprise card that I had never even heard of before it came up in my searches.
I also didn't include Lantern of Insight. Daxos' ability is much like me playing hockey. I take my shot but I'm not particularly accurate, especially from the blue line. Lantern of Insight is the equivalent of letting me shoot from much closer. I still won't score every time, but the odds get way better. With the goal of the deck being unpredictability, I thought Lantern of Insight and Moonring Island went against the ethos of the deck. Knowing all the cards just means you are now picking the best card and losing the "unpredictable" nature of the deck. If you feel using your opponents cards is enough, play Lantern of Insight and Moonring Island; they bring your shot right to the slot. Otherwise, embrace the unknown and love that point in the game when you windmill slam that unknown card; enjoy the moment!