Commander Masters Preview: Xantcha, Sleeper Agent

Michael Celani • July 14, 2023

Xantcha, Sleeper Agent | Illustrated by Mark Winters

Good evening, agent, and welcome back from your vacation to the Louvre. Inside this bubble-wrapped package is an autodidactic messenger. He does not yet know your next mission, but will self-instruct in 30 seconds.

Yesterday, at approximately 12:35 PM Sandwich Mean Time, the communists created a second moon. Locked in orbit over the island of Kaua'i, this socialist sphere has been clocked at three times as lunar as the original Moon while only using half the energy. Our best mathematical models conclude that the new celestial body is capable of overpowering any other cosmic signal, and indeed, our scouts have confirmed an alarming number of werewolves seizing the means of production on the east coast. Your mission: infiltrate the three KGB bases on the north, south, and west poles of the satellite, establish landing points to support our astral troops, and destroy this new moon before it becomes a full problem.

Total Lunacy

Good morning, agent. I'm spymaster general Michael Celani, and I do things because they're hard. Just when we thought we'd won the space race, the communists launched the Second Moon so they can beat us to that one instead. It might be shocking, terrifying, and physically improbable, but you're here because you're calm under pressure, despite the fact there's significantly less atmosphere on the moon than on Earth. It's time to get ready, agent, because this lunar landing isn't gonna be fake. You won't be alone, either: we're sending you in with one of our top agents, who is going to be reprinted in Commander Masters.

Xantcha, Sleeper Agent used to be big-time on Wall Street, but ever since the communists seized control of her country and clamped down on black-stock-market deals, she turned from trader to traitor and from commodities to a bonds girl. She's quite the brawler, and for a small investment of just , Xantcha steals you some valuable intel while sabotaging whomever she's spying on. Anyone can activate this ability, so to make this mission a success, your goal is to ensure that Xantcha infiltrates all three enemy bases, keeping the focus away from you as your opponents burn each other out.

Infiltration Lens

If you're curious how one person could be at three different places simultaneously, know that the answer is science. See, the important thing about Xantcha is that she enters the battlefield under the control of an opponent. That means if you were to make a token copy of her, you wouldn't have to worry about such trifling matters as having multiple legendary creatures with the same name. Our plan is clear: let's make some extra Xantchas so that, like PRISM, everyone is a victim of your spying!

  • Temporarily gain control of Xantcha with something like a Captivating Crew or Helm of Possession, and then create a token copy of her with Jaxis, the Troublemaker or Orthion, Hero of Lavabrink. The copy will enter under the control of an opponent, so you won't have to worry about the legend rule ruining your fun. Plus, since an enemy controls the token at the end of the turn, you won't even sacrifice it, since you can't sacrifice permanents you don't control!
    • Don't sleep on Mirage Mirror here. Yes, you can make it into a Xantcha so you can copy it, but you can also have it act as a second Heartstone when you're ready to close out the game, or even transform it into a permanent an opponent controls if it's suitably threatening.
  • Alternatively, try copying Xantcha as you cast her with Lithoform Engine's last ability. That leaves two enemies under your watchful eye, and you can even use the engine's first ability to double up on the draw and damage, too.
  • Don't be afraid to put Xantcha in the graveyard, either. We're packing several reanimation spells, and Feldon of the Third Path creates an artifact clone of her from the graveyard.
    • Dollhouse of Horrors works very similarly, but it will exile Xantcha as part of the cost. Sure, this will raise your commander taxes, but it also significantly increases how long your commander can stay out for just one mana a pop.
  • If Xantcha dies during an opponent's turn, bring her right back with Activated Sleeper, or use it proactively to plagiarize an opponent's Dockside Extortionist.
  • Similarly, Apprentice Necromancer, Footsteps of the Goryo, and Wake the Dead are all unconditional reanimation spells that are extremely cheap, and their shared downside (if you can even call it that) doesn't matter if you're reviving Xantcha.
  • And although Gixian Puppeteer doesn't immediately save your commander when you cast it, you're better off playing it out early and capitalizing on that drain effect.

Field Backup

Don't worry, agent: unlike that time in Moscow, or that time in Canberra, or even that time in Boise, we won't abandon you to be captured and tortured for years in the dank basement of a Wendy's. I hear they served you inedible sludge, and we won't make you go through that again. No, we're sending a couple more agents your way as backup, and they're all great choices to copy with your various mad scientist allies. Speaking of mad scientists, what we're doing isn't strictly legal, so make sure you don't inform the United Nations.

  • Both Sleeper Agent and Akroan Horse work like Xantcha, because they all end up under the control of an opponent. Make as many copies of these guys as you can to give to your opponents, because it only takes a few of them to accrue some serious advantages.
  • Dusk Legion Zealot, Corpse Augur, and Phyrexian Gargantua each draw you cards thanks to a zone-change trigger; pretty standard stuff.
    • Humble Defector isn't quite so standard, but the copies you create from abilities like Feldon's have haste. The problem is you'll actually be permanently donating them, since you can't sacrifice creatures you don't control. Use this opportunity to have a little fireside chat with an opponent and make a deal you can capitalize on later.
  • Ardent Elementalist can recur amazing spells, like Mana Geyser, which will allow you to activate Xantcha five times over, or our other preview card, Disrupt Decorum, which forces your opponents' creatures to duke it out as you sit back and laugh.
  • Sidisi, Undead Vizier can Exploit herself to fetch you any card in your deck, and your first call is almost certainly Feldon. From there, keep making copies of her to find the cards you need to keep your gameplan active.
  • Finally, even two Massacre Wurm triggers won't kill a standard Xantcha, but it'll probably snipe most creatures your opponents control and possibly your opponents themselves, too.
By the way, here's the art for the new Ron Spencer Disrupt Decorum.

Turned to Stone

Well done, agent. You've successfully infiltrated all three moon bases, and our ground troops are making mincemeat of the moon's embedded laser cannons. All that's left for you is to push the button. Namely, the self-destruct button on Xantcha. Because she's also a robot.

With a few choice cards, like Ashnod's Transmogrant, Liquimetal Torque, or even Feldon, we can make a Xantcha that's also an artifact. Not only does this turn Sculpting Steel into yet another clone and allow us to copy Xantcha's ability with Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient, it also lets us do something a bit more... insidious.

If we enchant our newly robotic Xantcha with Artifact Possession, or set up Haunting Wind beforehand, we can significantly increase how much damage each activation does. Convince your opponents to hold back for a turn, give an artifact Xantcha to the most threatening opponent, then go in for the kill by having everyone spend all their mana to burn down the threat, destroying everything the enemy has worked for and saving the world.

Project Moonfall

Congratulations on blowing up the moon, agent. President Reagan has already called to congratulate me for what you've done. Your name will be forgotten, as the names of all great spies are, but don't fret. We've all pooled our bonuses together and got you this $20 gift certificate to Wendy's. Wait, why are you curling up into a ball?

If you enjoy How They Brew It, please check out the Discord and my other projects at my website. You can vote on what article you want to see next, or just check out all the other cool stuff I do, and thanks so much to Wizards for giving us these preview cards. See you next time, where I'm probably going to be, like, an insurance executive or something.

Spy Trio (Xantcha, Sleeper Agent EDH)

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Commander (1)
Creatures (22)
Sorceries (8)
Instants (10)
Artifacts (16)
Enchantments (7)
Lands (36)

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Newly appointed member of the FDIC and insured up to $150,000 per account, Michael Celani is the member of your playgroup that makes you go "oh no, it's that guy again." He's made a Twitter account @GamesfreakSA as well as other mistakes, and his decks have been featured on places like MTGMuddstah. You can join his Discord at and vote on which decks you want to see next. In addition to writing, he has a job, other hobbies, and friends.