May 18, 2022

Relax, Lord Xander isn’t going to ruin MTG’s Commander format

As a format that uses nearly every card in Magic The Gathering’s 30-year history, it’s easy to accidentally break Commander. It’s happened many times, whether it’s Hullbreacher in Commander Legends or Lutri the Spellchaser in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths.

With the upcoming Streets of New Capenna set, the Commander community is insisting that the last card to “completely ruin the format” will be Lord Xander, the Collector. As the leader of the art-collecting assassins known as the Maestros, Xander is a tall, scary, and honestly, incredibly hot demon vampire that almost all commanders are now convinced are losing their collective shit. Except, for all the energy Xander radiates, he’s unlikely to be the oppressive pending ban the community predicts.

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Getting to the heart of the matter, Lord Xander the Collector is a 6/6 blue/black/red Vampire Demon Noble. When entering the battlefield, target opponent discards half of their hand, rounded down. Each time they attack, the defending player grinds half of their library, rounded down. And then, when it dies, target opponent sacrifices half of their nonland permanents. Again, rounding down.


Lord Alex

To be clear, Xander is absolutely a scary card. All three of its abilities are triggered, which can be difficult for a lot of decks to counter, and it will have an absolute impact on the game as soon as it hits the battlefield. Everything from Mill decks to Graveyard to Aristocrat decks will love him, and he’s definitely one of the strongest commanders we’ve had in a while. But is it worthy of being banned, as claimed by the Commander community? Probably not. Many players miss out on Alex’s major weaknesses that potentially push him out of the reach of problematic commanders like Tireless Pilgrim Golos or Trest’s Emissary Leovold.


Alex is expensive as hell. Costing four generic mana, one blue, one black, and one red, it’s well on the end of the mana values ​​for commanders. Seven mana is doable – some of the format’s most beloved commanders cost it or more, like Koma, Cosmos Serpent; Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite; or Akroma, angel of fury. But seven mana where three of them have to be different colors is vastly different, and only a handful of other commanders that require that much mana in different colors are actually played in the format to some degree.


Alex counters

More important than the raw mana cost is the time it gives your opponents to prepare. Unlike the rest of your deck, you can’t hide your commander, so your opponents know from the start that if they let you reach seven mana, you’ll cast Lord Xander, and the game will suddenly swing heavily in your favor. . You are a slow and imminent threat that players will want to preemptively take out. And with three other players at the table, someone is going to have a counterspell, or choke, or at least some kind of protection for themselves.


The second problem is that Alex looks a lot scarier than he actually is. Its abilities only affect one player at a time, and two of them can be stopped with a simple Aegis of the Gods, Witchbane Orb, or Keen-Eared Sentry. Attacking an opponent to have them grind half of their library is the worst of the three triggered abilities, but to do so you usually have to put Xander in direct danger.

There is also a huge chance that Alex will turn against him. Graveyard decks would love to grind half their library, and any Aristocrats player would gladly sacrifice half their permanents to stack those death triggers. Even lowly creature token players won’t mind too much, as you’re unlikely to throw Xander at their wall of blockers. And what if someone has Deflecting Swat, a red base Commander item that redirects an ability?



Tergrid, god of fear

Sure, there are ways to build Xander that would make it an oppressive nightmare, but you can say that for pretty much any map. Commanders can be built in an almost infinite number of ways, but we don’t look at weak ones like Kwain, Itinerant Meddler and ban it because cards like Pemmin’s Aura and Smothering Tithe exist.

The problem with Xander isn’t Xander himself, it’s the card that’s been causing problems for months and everyone thought about when it was announced: Tergrid, God of Fright. Introduced in Kaldheim, Tergrid is a mono-black creature that lets you take control of any permanent an opponent discards or sacrifices. On her own, she’s a nightmare, but Xander can boost her in a big way. Maybe he’ll be the thing that finally persuades the Commander’s Rules Committee to step in and ban Tergrid, but that doesn’t inherently mean Alex will be a problem as well.


It’s easy when a big, new, splashy Commander happens to think “this is it, this is the one that breaks the format”, and Xander certainly comes close. It’s reasonable not to be thrilled to play against him, and speaking up when discussing your Commander game’s zero rule is a central part of the format. But to go so far as to say he should be banned outright is a hell of a leap the community is taking when he’s not as good as people think he is. Just let me play my slow, hot, demonic bastard.

NEXT: We Need To Move On Than Talking About Magic The Gathering’s Commander Power Levels


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