Lord Xander, the Collector | Illustration by Martina Fackova
Lord Xander, the Collector is one of the most Grixis () cards ever printed. Its three triggered abilities each have decidedly blue-black-red effects, giving the Lord a plethora of build options. In this deck, I’m focusing on Xander’s attack trigger to build a 3-color mill deck that relies on creating copies of Xander to attack each opponent every turn.
But what makes this criminal patriarch so powerful? Let’s dive right in and take a look!
Riddlekeeper | Illustration by Steve Prescott
Jace, the Perfected Mind
Jace, Memory Adept
Nemesis of Reason
Teferi’s Time Twist
Glimpse the Unthinkable
Read the Bones
Tasha’s Hideous Laughter
Irenicus’s Vile Duplication
Rite of Replication
Cut Your Losses
Court of Cunning
Leyline of the Void
Helm of the Host
Rocky Tar Pit
This Lord Xander, the Collector deck wins by milling out your opponents’ libraries or their life via attacks from Xander. You’re looking to copy Lord Xander at least twice so you can swing on the whole pod each turn since its abilities can only target one opponent at a time.
And just to make doubly sure, you’ll back Xander up with a collection of extra mill effects and cards like Mindcrank to keep the pressure on.
Lord Xander, the Collector has three powerful triggered abilities that force an opponent to pay an appropriate tribute. The first triggers when it enters the battlefield and forces an opponent to discard half the cards in their hand (potentially saving Xander from upcoming removal). The second triggers when Xander attacks and mills half of the cards in the defending player’s library. Finally, when Xander dies, an opponent sacrifices half their nonland permanents in an empathetic show of solidarity with the loss of your commander.
To get the most value out of Lord Xander you want to trigger each of those abilities as often as possible through clone creatures, blink spells, and reanimation effects.
Mill, Mill, and More Mill!
Your main win condition in this deck involves punishingly milling your opponents until they’ve got no libraries left. Playing mill is notoriously difficult in Commander given the increased deck size and a meta that’s absolutely swamped with reanimator and graveyard decks. You can’t rely on repeated Glimpse the Unthinkables to win the game, so you’re focusing on effects that mill at least half of a library each time.
Besides Lord Xander, the Collector’s attack trigger, Fleet Swallower and Terisian Mindbreaker both chop a library in half every time they swing. Nemesis of Reason mills a good number of cards when it attacks as well, but not nearly half.
Traumatize, Cut Your Losses, and a kicked Maddening Cacophony can cut a library in twain at sorcery-speed. Each of these triggered abilities with Lithoform Engine and Strionic Resonator should be copied when you have the mana available.
A number of cheaper mill spells can help push you over the edge and mill those last dozen cards or so. Classics Mind Sculpt and Glimpse the Unthinkable are great in a pinch, but Tasha’s Hideous Laughter is your bomb. An unlucky player will hit 10 or more lands before they reach 20 total mana value, impotently flipping cards from the top of their deck into their graveyard.
On the flipside, Mind Grind has the potential to obliterate an opponent’s library if they’ve ramped too many lands onto the field. Sure, Omnath decks can get 15+ lands on the field by turn 5, but all that means is there are 15 fewer lands for them to mill to stop your late-game Mind Grind.
You can’t be wasting mana on milling every turn, so there are some great passive milling effects on permanents that fit right into your curve. Pairing Psychic Corrosion with Memory Erosion and Riddlekeeper basically guarantees six or more cards from each opponent every turn, but these aren’t your best permanents by far. That honor belongs to Court of Cunning, both an excellent draw engine and a massive mill effect we can activate every turn.
You’re also running best friends Hedron Crab and Ruin Crab, great 1-drops with abilities you’ll trigger every turn.
If all that wasn’t enough you’ve also got Mesmeric Orb for good measure.
How could you run a mill deck without any Jace cards? You couldn’t, that’s how. Jace, Memory Adept and Jace, the Perfected Mind are your blue planeswalkers of choice. You’ll mostly be using Memory Adept’s second ability and the Perfected Mind’s third ability as often as you can.
Finally, remember that multiple “mill half their library” effects on the stack don’t “check” the library at the same time when determining the amount to mill. Two effects will take a deck to 50% of its current amount, and then in half again to 25% of the original amount, not one half and then the other half, bringing a deck to zero cards.
However, Fraying Sanity makes an enchanted player mill X during their end step, where X is the number of cards put into their graveyard this turn. A player who’s just milled half of their library will mill the other half at the end of the turn if they’re cursed with this aura.
Fraying Sanity will be your go-to tutor target to end the game once Xander is on the field and protected.
Attack of the Clones
What’s better than one Lord Xander, the Collector? Two Lord Xanders! Or three Xanders! Or four! You’ll create as many Xander clones as you possibly can to maximize the value you get out of your commander’s triggered abilities. Clearing removal from opponents’ hands by getting an extra copy of Xander’s ETB effect is an easy way to deny options to your opponents without paying a whole seven mana (or more, with commander tax) each time.
Because of Lord Xander’s legendary status, your best clone effects are the ones that don’t require Mirror Box or Mirror Gallery already in play.
Spark Double and Irenicus’s Vile Duplication can both copy Xander without dying immediately upon entering the battlefield. But Vesuvan Duplimancy… this one’s the real banger. This turns all of your blink effects and reanimators into extra Xander copies! The value you’ll get out of this is off the charts.
If you have managed to tutor up your legend-rule-cancelers, the rest of your Clones become much more effective.
Phantasmal Image and Mirror Image are the easiest to cast, but Dack’s Duplicate entering with haste is a pretty nasty trick.
Casting Rite of Replication on Xander can have devastating results, especially if it’s kicked or copied with Lithoform Engine. Outside of the Mountain of triggers you put on the stack, you’ll also have a small army of 6/6 demons.
Any commander that attacks every turn wants a Helm of the Host, and Lord Xander fits the Helm perfectly despite his horns. A 9-mana investment to even get it on your commander seems steep, but another Lord Xander each turn for free to swing around the board with reckless abandon is well worth the trouble. You don’t even need to attack with your original Lord Xander; just send the token in to fight!
Lord Xander isn’t just a crime boss, he’s the curator of the Maestros theater-slash-museum-slash-criminal hideout. As such, he has access to some of the finest artifacts on New Capenna, and many are essential to our strategy.
First off, Mirror Box and Mirror Gallery are required to create copies of Xander in most instances. These are the targets of our Diabolic Tutor and Profane Tutor most often. While Mirror Box is definitely the better of the two, you have both for when that inevitable Vandalblast hits the field. Always have a backup!
Since Xander’s abilities are all triggered, you use Strionic Resonator and Lithoform Engine to double up on its mill effect.
Mindcrank will produce mixed results. It can save you from having to re-mill an opponent who’s just popped an Elixir of Immortality in a pinch, but it’s very swingy overall. A couple attack triggers from Lord Xander, the Collector can end a game immediately with Mindcrank, but it’s not as consistent as it seems.
Lord Xander, the Collector is an exorbitant seven mana to cast. I don’t know about you, but I never want to pay nine or more to recast it from my command zone. You need Lord Xander to stick once it’s on the field, so you’ll protect it in a lot of the standard ways, albeit with some mill-themed tweaks for this deck specifically.
Lord Xander is vulnerable to spot removal until you can equip it with Swiftfoot Boots. Use blink effects to bounce it from the battlefield until it gets hexproof, causing that targeted removal to fizzle. Lord Xander then re-enters the battlefield and its ETB effect triggers again, and then you can punish the opponent foolish enough to come after the king.
Teferi’s Time Twist is your cheapest Cloudshift, with Illusionist’s Stratagem, Ghostly Flicker, and Blur as slightly slower options. Remember that Ghostly Flicker can bounce two of your lands if you need to trigger Hedron Crab and Ruin Crab again.
In lieu of the typical Cancel, you’re running Psychic Strike as an on-theme counterspell. Technically it synergizes with your Mindcrank or squeezes an extra few cards out of Fraying Sanity.
Those are all fine for spells that target your commander, but what to do about those Wrath of Gods? Supernatural Stamina and Undying Evil effectively blink Lord Xander back onto the battlefield once it dies, making them great responses to board wipes on the stack.
You can also prepare early with Kaya’s Ghostform. Each of these also revolve around letting Xander die, meaning you trigger its third ability too!
Dimir Doppelganger and Animate Dead can grab Xander from your graveyard, but don’t neglect their utility in using your opponents’ milled out creatures against them.
The Mana Base
Without access to traditional green ramp, you’re running five mana rocks and no fewer than 36 lands. These include the staple Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, and the three Ravnica Signets in your colors.
A majority of your mill spells are blue, so this deck favors Islands and multicolor blue lands. Your multicolor lands include the typical tap lands and gain lands, but I want to call out how much I love Bad River and Rocky Tar Pit. These “slow fetches” are some of my favorite mana-fixers for any deck builder on a budget. Dominaria United’s 2-color tap lands each have the basic land types of their respective colors. This means you don’t need Watery Grave to fetch with your Bloodstained Mire to grab the opposite 2-color pair from your library.
This Lord Xander, the Collector deck wants to do one thing: mill your opponents out as quickly as possible with attack triggers from Xander and his menagerie of nasty creatures. This deck is hungry for mana, so I advise mulliganing for a hand with three or more lands and at least one ramp option. This can be a mana rock or Nightscape Familiar, just make sure you’re not relying on land drops alone.
Your early game is all about setting up. Memory Erosion and Psychic Corrosion are good early plays and won’t be perceived as threatening until much later. Obviously the sooner you drop either Hedron Crab or Ruin Crab the better, and you won’t be bashful about Clone-ing them either. You can always bounce the copy creatures later on with Ghostly Flicker to change them to match Consuming Aberration or Terisian Mindbreaker.
Lord Xander is a whopping seven mana, so you’re doing fairly well if you can play it by turn 5 or 6. When it hits the field you’ll target the opponent you most suspect to have removal with its discard effect (usually this is just the player with the most cards in hand, but you know your pod better than I do).
You’ll also probably want to keep Tormod’s Crypt or Soul-Guide Lantern around before you play Xander. You might accidentally dig up an opponent’s wincon and spoon-feed it right into their graveyard for them!
Milling half of an opponent’s library becomes less and less effective as their library shrinks, so to finish them off you’ll use Fraying Sanity, Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, and Mind Grind. Each of these spells becomes a real threat and can potentially remove the rest of their library in one big play once a deck is down to 20 or fewer cards.
You should drop Mirror Box or Mirror Gallery anywhere along the way. You can’t attack with your clones if they die immediately upon entry.
Combos and Interactions
This deck doesn’t run any intentionally infinite combos, but it does have a nasty synergy in Fraying Sanity plus any of your cards that mill half a library. This will completely mill an opponent out in one turn unless they can stop either of those triggers.
Rule 0 Violations Check
Some people hate to play against mill decks, but I don’t think that necessarily counts as going against Rule 0. Mill is a valid win condition and has been ever since this game’s inception. I guess the biggest headache mill decks cause is their lack of interaction outside of milling, but that’s the point of the deck.
You don’t have time to cast any other spells; you have to put nearly 100 cards into your graveyard to win!
This deck comes in at around $220, on the cheap end as far as EDH decks go these days. Let’s take a look at some budget options for those that want to spend more or less.
Damnation is in this deck because it’s the best black board wipe for four mana, but it can easily be replaced with In Garruk’s Wake to instantly drop $20.
Also apparently Spark Double shot up to nearly $12 when I wasn’t looking, so it might be the next on your chopping block. Slot in Mirage Mirror or Cackling Counterpart and call it good.
There’s always room to spend more on Magic cards, like I always say. You can pump up this deck by fixing the mana and replacing your slow fetches with real fetches in Bloodstained Mire and Polluted Delta.
The real big purchase for this deck is Bruvac the Grandiloquent. Bruvac becomes a better Fraying Sanity for this list, turning all your half-library mills into full-library mills.
Sakashima of a Thousand Faces is the best clone you can run alongside your commander since it comes with a Mirror Gallery effect.
Lord Xander, the Collector doesn’t make just a great mill commander. You could instead focus on Xander’s ETB effect and build around discard effects like Megrim and Waste Not.
You could also make an aristocrats build and focus on sacrificing Xander to trigger its third ability, garnering value out of cards like Blood Artist.
Psychic Corrosion | Illustration by Bastien L. Deharme
I encourage you to play Lord Xander, the Collector like he’s New Capenna’s Tony Soprano; a mean mob boss with a penchant for getting what he wants from people, and what he wants is half your library in your graveyard. Pepper in some Capone-ish “nyah, see?”s here and there, then close your eyes and imagine the sound of money counters as your opponents flip cards from the top of their library into their graveyard one at a time.
Are there any devastating mill cards missing from this list? What sorts of Lord Xander builds are you looking at? Let me know in the comments below or join the discussion on Draftsim’s Discord.
Thanks for reading, and remember to watch your back the next time you’re in New Capenna!
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