I hate math.
I mean it. I really hate math. I especially hate the math that involves those weird little symbols, or the type of math where they make you try to find out what X is. WHY DON'T YOU TELL ME WHAT X IS BARBARA!? I JUST WANT TO GO TO LUNCH!
...I got a bit carried away there. Anyway, I've been trying to avoid math for years… so, naturally, I decided to build around a commander that has me do all the math.
If any card was that math teacher you absolutely despised in high school, it's Zaxara, the Exemplary. Like any average math teacher, Zaxara has deathtouch and spits out Hydras when you correctly solve 16-2x = 5x+9. Our lovable teacher also has the ability to tap for two mana of any one color, which can help you solve for X (see what I did there). Zaxara, the Exemplary is not the type of faculty member to sit back and relax, legs kicked up on their desk while they play Schoolhouse Rock for the class. Oh no. Zaxara is fantastic for ultimate beatdowns that are devastating not only to the table, but to your GPA as well.
Zaxara, the Exemplary is a teacher with only two passions outside of the classroom: tokens and counters. Enchantments like Parallel Lives, Doubling Season and Primal Vigor are easy ways to gain favor with the slimy academic. These three enchantments double the amount of tokens being put out onto the battlefield. Zaxara, the Exemplary will be impressed by your mathematical capabilities. Doubling Season and Primal Vigor also have the added bonus of doubling the amount of counters on your tokens as well! Imagine casting a Steelbane Hydra for six mana. Zaxara, the Exemplary creates a 0/0 Hydra with four +1/+1 counters on it. Doubling Season creates two of those Hydra tokens and makes them enter in with eight counters instead!
These cards were late to class AGAIN! I really hope this won't affect their final grade….who am I kidding? We all know it will!
When originally building this deck, chat told me that I needed some interaction. I could not have agreed more. Molder might have been late to class, but this card still puts the work in. An X spell that destroys target artifact or enchantment with CMC X is right on theme. This card offers the added benefit of creating a Hydra token off of Zaxara, and also gains you X life.
Just because she was late to class this one time does not mean she isn't the star pupil. Selvala, Heart of the Wilds is a threatening addition to this deck. While the first ability could be great in this deck, her second ability truly shines! For one green, she can create X mana in any combination of colors where X is the greatest power amongst creatures you control. In a deck that focuses on creating big creatures through big mana, this card is one to watch out for.
Chat and I originally discussed Languish as a way to wipe our opponents' boards without harming our Hydras. However, Languish was cut due to the fact that it could kill Zaxara, the Exemplary! Finding ways to wipe boards without harming our creatures was a struggle in the beginning. However, we landed on Dregs of Sorrow and In Garruk's Wake. Dregs of Sorrow destroys non-black creatures with the added bonus of creating a Hydra token and card draw.
Chat was truly devastated when I cut Scute Mob. We were originally drawn to this card as an early drop that can continuously gain counters while triggering Simic Ascendancy. However, it was cut due to the fact that it did not fit with Zaxara, the Exemplary's X theme. Every now and then, chat and I would fall down the rabbit hole of +1/+1 counters. While it is a fun theme to explore, Scute Mob does nothing for our token generation, nor our counters.
When first brewing this deck, it was very apparent that this deck had to be X tribal to maximize Zaxara, the Exemplary's token generation ability.
Unbound Flourishing is the teacher's pet of this deck. This card was MADE for Zaxara, the Exemplary. The enchantment allows you to double your X-cost spells which means twice the amount of counters on your Hydra tokens. The deck also contains 16 instants/sorceries that have X in their casting cost. Thanks to Unbound Flourishing, we can create copies and then choose new targets, maximizing the benefit from this three-mana enchantment.
Want to impress algebra teacher Zaxara, the Exemplary? Then how about a little extra credit? What happens when you tap a land with a mana tripler out after you've double the mana in your mana pool? A headache? Maybe! Cards like Doubling Cube and Nyxbloom Ancient truly maximize our X spells. Tapping your lands for triple mana, then doubling it with Doubling Cube makes our sadistic scholar Zaxara, the Exemplary hiss with glee!
My favorite thing about deck building is the flavor. While this deck severely lacks the mathematician creature type, it does not lack hydras. Out of all the hydras, the one that truly has the most mouth feel is Hooded Hydra! This X-cost Hydra enters in with X +1/+1 counters on it, which creates another Hydra token through Zaxara, the Exemplary. When Hooded Hydra dies, you create snake tokens equal to the number of counters on it. YOU GET LITTLE SNAKES! This card has it all! It's a Hydra, it's an X-cost spell, and it also makes tokens!
Herald of Secret Streams is one of those cards that truly meets the definition of "too good not to run". This card makes all your creatures with +1/+1 counters unblockable. Whether it's tokens off of Zaxara, the Exemplary or your Hydras, all of your creatures will ideally have +1/+1 counters! Imagine a sea of Hydra tokens crashing into your opponents. Evil, right?
The next card is Simic Ascendency. If this is a math deck, then Simic Ascendency is your easy A. +1/+1 counters are easier to obtain than ever thanks to Zaxara, the Exemplary's token ability. Rather than create an X/X Hydra token, Zaxara births a 0/0 with counters on it equal to the X-cost spell. This automatically triggers Simic Ascendency and significantly lowers the threshold for hitting that 20 counter mark.
Did you think I could forget about the ultimate X spell? The one that ends games and friendships alike? The dreadful beauty known as Torment of Hailfire?
If Torment of Hailfire was a math class, it would be Harvard's Math 55. Imagine wiping your opponent's board, emptying their hand, or devastating their life total while creating the biggest, baddest Hydra token you've ever seen! Tormenting Hailfire is best saved for late game to maximize salt and the chances of your slippery Hydras slapping your opponents for a fatality.
In every math class, there's always a dropout or two. In this intensive math course, it's Zameck Guildmage and Novijen Sages. I felt unsure about both of these cards during the initial stream. They have little impact on the flow of the deck as a whole. While both have the added benefit of card draw, Pull from Tomorrow gains you more cards with the added bonus of token generation through Zaxara.
The bell has rung, class is over! After looking over my notes from earlier, there's a couple things I've thought about since the stream.
I definitely would've liked to run more creature spells and graveyard recursion. The deck contains 25 creatures, however I would feel more comfortable reducing the sorceries and increasing the creatures to around 28. A regret I have was cutting Find // Finality. I originally removed the card due to Finality being able to kill Zaxara, the Exemplary. However, Finality's ability has a way of saving Zaxara with the two +1/+1 counters. Find is also a way to save your creatures from the graveyard.
However, at the end of the day, I am incredibly pleased with this deck. The synergies are clear and fun, and I am definitely considering adding this to my repertoire of paper decks in the future.