Editor’s Note: We’re off today in celebration of the holidays. In the meantime, enjoy this thematically appropriate Monday Magic article, which was originally published on 12/23/19.
When it comes to orchestrating which card is highlighted each week, there is a method to my madness. There has to be. Although when the series started the first handful of cards were topical to myself or my gaming group due to a recent game, deck building debate, or general EDH conversation, it didn’t take long before a process was needed to to properly maintain a balance between cards chosen along color lines but also along the types of cards. After all, it would do no one any good if 90% of all the cards picked were Enchantments, just as it wouldn’t be helpful if every single Black card was a card tutor or spot removal card. Always designed to be a true cross-section for the format, the Spotlight series quickly needed a form of internal data tracking to ensure I wasn’t favoring the same style of cards over and over and over again.
So…yeah, a spreadsheet exists.
The reason this fact matters at all is because it helps explain the rationale for today’s card choice. Because when the final articles of the year were being planned out, a number of different factors were all being put into motion at once.
For one, as this is a holiday week, it’s become a tradition of sorts to choose something festive color-wise. It also marks the 275th individual card spotlighted in the series, so I wanted to opt for something a little splashy. And if that wasn’t enough, I wanted to tie it into some of the topical community conversation, which meant referencing either something to do with B&R list changes, how the programming in the digital versions of Magic like Arena have changed card development, or something to do with the early spoiler season talk about the return to Theros.
It took a bit of work, but in the end this week’s card ended up checking so many boxes that it proved a bit serendipitous. It’s Red / Green with a festive(ish) name. It’s a Theros card. And it serves as a pleasantly solid selection for a milestone article number.
It also marks just the second time ever that we’ve gone with a planeswalker to bring ourselves a bit of comfort and joy.
Today we have: Xenagos, the Reveler
Name: Xenagos, the Reveler
Rarity: Mythic Rare
Focus: Mana Generation / Token Generation / Free Casting
Highlights: Planeswalkers have traditionally been off limits as Spotlight cards because they often don’t gel with the ethos of this series – namely because of price. As we don’t focus on brand new cards and generally avoid showcasing cards that don’t appear in conventional sets (i.e. those in Intro or Commander decks), it’s a challenge to find older planeswalkers at or under the $5 aftermarket price cap we stick to. While that is slowly changing due to the sheer volume of planeswalker cards that exist now, it’s still often more the exception than the rule.
With that in mind, what makes Xenagos particularly amusing is that it has never been a particularly pricey planeswalker and has stayed at roughly the same value since it came out. The main culprit? Xenagos. Well, the other Xenagos to be more precise, which has perpetually overshadowed it in terms of fanfare.
Like most planeswalkers, Xenagos, the Reveler comes with the standard compliment of three loyalty abilities, with its first ability possessing a mild form of synergy with the second and third. Xenagos also fits right along the normal casting curve, costing just four mana for its effects, making it quite reasonable in any deck, let alone a Commander one. He does start with only three loyalty, thereby making him slightly vulnerable and not an immediate threat to set off his ultimate, but his utilitarian based effects more than make up for his build-around-me vulnerabilities.
His first ability, for +1 loyalty, adds Red and / or Green mana to your mana pool equal to the number of creatures you control. In isolation this doesn’t gain you anything without creatures on the battlefield, but you’d rarely want to have it out without something to defend it anyhow, so it’s generally a moot issue. On the other hand, dropping this card out with a small arsenal at your disposal can ramp your mana acceleration in a hurry. Even something like four token creatures can provide a hefty abundance of extra mana each turn, which can do, among other things, let you drop out even more creatures to your battlefield party. This ability itself is enough for many players to consider adding it to their deck, and playing with it just a couple times quickly makes you appreciate why.
Secondly, for +0 Xenagos allows you to create a 2/2 creature with Haste. This is admittedly less useful in EDH than other formats, as a vanilla 2/2 isn’t going to change the course of the game much. Rather, this ability is useful to both add a defender to block with to keep Xenagos around, while simultaneously boosting the efficacy of his first ability.
Finally, should you be able to keep Xenagos on the battlefield and adequately defended for at least four rounds, you gain access to its ultimate. It states that for -6 loyalty you exile the top 7 cards of your deck and add any creatures or lands among them directly onto the battlefield. If timed correctly, this can be incredibly potent, either by adding quite a few more land and allowing you to consistently cast larger, more powerful spells, or dropping out a bunch of heavy-hitting creatures and dramatically swinging the board position in your favor.
As aforementioned, Xenagos is not nearly as aggressive as some of his counterparts and on average most of his overt value resides with his first ability. Yet this slower, less explosive planeswalker iteration actually works to its advantage in Commander. Namely, it can fuel your deck’s ambitions without innately holding up a Kill Me sign as soon as it’s on the board. Which gives it some longevity…so long as you can keep your creature party going. Conveniently, Green is pretty adept at that.
Yes, Xenagos is a helpful and worthwhile cheerleader for many Commander shindigs. He shows up ready to party and is more than happy to keep feeding that festive sentiment. All he needs is an invite.
Happy Holidays all!
Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.
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